”I do” equals “ka-ching” in new initiative to boost childbirth rate,

When discussing Japan’s low birth rate, a lot is made of cultural factors, often with a snickering comment about how maybe modern Japanese youths would rather spend time with their 2-D anime and video game crushes than a human romantic partner. But something that often gets overlooked is the economic hurdles that often stand in the way of having a child.

Japanese society strongly values being financially stable, and starting a family on a dicey budget is something most couples strongly want to avoid. So to help give couples a little more room in their budget, hopefully enough to convince them there’s room for a baby, the Japanese government’s Cabinet Office wants to give residents of the country who decide to get married a grant of 600,000 yen (US$5,660).

The new program doubles the 300,000 yen newlyweds are currently able to receive, and also greatly expands the eligibility requirements. Currently the grant is only offered to newly married couples in which both husband and wife are 34 or younger, and who have a combined household income of 4.8 million yen or less. From next year, though, couples can be as old as 39, and have a combined income of up to 5.4 million yen, and still be eligible for the grant.

While getting married and having a child aren’t one and the same, in Japan single parenthood is still comparatively rare, and almost always unplanned. With marriage generally seen by couples as a prerequisite for starting a family, there’s logic in making it economically easier for couples to tie the knot. In particular, the Cabinet Office hopes that the grant will prove helpful in covering move-in expenses and rent, both notoriously high in Japan, which would allow a larger number of couples to choose homes with more than the bare minimum amount of space for just two people, therein making it easier for them to feel ready to create a third member of the household.

The new program is expected to start at the beginning of the next fiscal year in April.

Sources: Livedoor News/Kyodo via Jin, TBS News
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