Bad news for the country’s declining birth rate is accompanied by rosier development about divorce.

With Christmas being the biggest date night of the year in Japan, there’s still a lingering atmosphere of amour in the air as the new year starts. However, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s latest statistics aren’t quite as romantic.

Each year, the ministry tallies the number of marriages that took place in Japan between January and October. In 2017, approximately 607,000 couples tied the knot during that period, which was roughly 13,000 less than the same time frame in 2016. This was the fifth straight annual decline, and the lowest number of people getting married since the end of World War II.

The ministry says the dropping marriage number is due to the decreasing population of young adults, and that in order to reverse the declining birth rate, changes must be made to Japanese society in order to make marriage easier for couples. While no specific proposals accompanied the release of the statistics, critic often blame Japan’s high childcare and educational costs, as well as some companies considering marriage and motherhood to be limiting factors on a working woman’s professional commitment.

Although not mentioned by the ministry, another likely reason for declining marriage numbers is Japan’s rapidly increasing acceptance of unmarried couples living together. In modern times, the stigma of two consenting adults sharing a home without being wed has largely disappeared, removing much of the urgency to get married, at least if the couple isn’t planning to have children anytime soon (unwed pregnancies are still largely frowned upon in Japan).

Cohabitation, and thus the ability to essentially sample married life without being legally married, may also be a contributing factor in another development. It wasn’t just the number of marriages that dropped last year, as the ministry’s survey also showed that only 212,000 couples divorced during the period for 2017. That figure, down 4,800 compared to 2016, was the lowest in 20 years, which suggests that, at least in some cases, Japanese divorces are being prevented by incompatible couples not getting married in the first place.

Source: NHK News Web via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso