COVID-19 takes its toll on Japan in a different way.

Whether it was because of a natural embrace of mask wearing, the protection of a magical monster, or just dumb luck, Japan has been keeping deaths from COVID-19 relatively low on the other side of the second wave now.

However, the pandemic is cutting down on the nation’s population in a different way. Rather than killing citizens, it’s been stopping new ones from being conceived. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, pregnancy notifications across Japan have dropped by 11.4 percent between the months of May and July.

▼ On the bright side, fewer pregnancies mean we’ll likely see an uptick in priority seat vacancies in the coming months, since pregnant women are one demographic they’re reserved for.

Things got to their lowest during May when conception plummeted 17.1 percent from the same time the year before. The biggest decreases were also seen in rural prefectures like Ishikawa (22.5 percent), Aomori (23.7 percent), and Yamaguchi (29.7 percent), where population decline is already a dire situation.

To put it in terms of people, as of this writing COVID-19 has claimed a total of 1,679 lives in Japan, but during that three-month period there were 26,331 fewer births. Of course, part of that is a general downtrend in births that has been going on for some time, but even taking that into account, it’s still a considerable drop.

It should be no mystery as to why this is happening. Being pregnant means frequent hospital visits, and looking at the current state of things isn’t exactly inspiring people to bring a new life into it all right now.

▼ At least he’ll grow up not remembering how long we had to wait for the final Evangelion movie

In fact, this trend is probably similar to what is happening in other parts of the world too, but in Japan it’s a particular problem as the country is already struggling with the most lopsidedly aged population in the world. With pensions and health care systems approaching critical mass, I’m pretty much already resigned to the fact I’ll probably be piloting a FamilyMart mecha in my 80s.

This problematic situation even has some netizens suspecting that COVID-19 is just a scapegoat for this drop in pregnancies, and general social policy in Japan might be the real threat.

“Well, duh…”
“I wonder how much of this is the impact of the sales tax hike.”
“Maybe if they waived sales taxes, things would improve?”
“Maybe if people could earn more than 4 million (US$38,000) a year, they’d feel like having kids.”
“What happened to all those ‘isolation babies’ people were predicting with husbands staying home from work?”
“What about that article I read where corona was supposed to make teen pregnancies spike?”
“That corona’s pretty sneaky.”

Assuming that COVID-19 really is the cause for most of these no-show pregnancies, the silver lining is that many parents-to-be are likely just waiting until the situation improves before taking the plunge. This means we should expect a slight spike in Japanese pregnancies in the near future, but probably not a full-on ‘baby boom.’ It’d be more like a ‘baby burp.’

But the larger problem remains in Japan and if we don’t something about it, a future of more spacious living quarters and better robotic exoskeletons awaits… I’m pretty sure it’s still a bad thing though.

Source: Kyodo, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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