Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060.
The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” More than a quarter of men felt the same way.
The article contains a number of speculations as to cause, well worth reading. At least the Malthusians will be happy.
The Daily Beast reports that palm surgery is on the rise in Japan:
In Japan, where palm reading remains one of the most popular means of fortune-telling, some people have figured out a way to change their fate. It’s a simple idea: change your palm, change the reading, and change your future. All you need is a competent plastic surgeon with an electric scalpel who has a basic knowledge of palmistry. Or you can draw the lines on your hand with a marker and let him work the magic you want.
Missing a marriage line? That can be fixed. Wedding bells may ring.
Need some good fortune? Add a money-luck line and you might win the lottery or be promoted to vice president in your firm. For the smart shopper—one willing to undergo palm plastic surgery—the future isn’t what it used to be.
The surgery is evidently so popular that clinics don’t need to advertise. In fact, one clinic’s brief advertising campaign resulted in so much demand they found themselves unable to keep up. “Maybe changing your palm won’t change your fate,” says plastic surgeon Takaaki Matsuoka, “but if you have that much determination to try to change it—and are willing to endure a little pain for that chance—maybe you can change your life.”
(HT: Isabel McCann)
Here’s a fascinating new working paper from Yale economist David G. Atkin, called “Endogenous Skill Acquisition and Export Manufacturing in Mexico” (abstract here; PDF of an earlier version here). The gist:
This paper presents empirical evidence that the growth of export manufacturing in Mexico during a period of major trade reforms, the years 1986-2000, altered the distribution of education. I use variation in the timing of factory openings across municipalities to show that school dropout increased with local expansions in export manufacturing. The magnitudes I find suggest that for every twenty jobs created, one student dropped out of school at grade 9 rather than continuing through to grade 12. These effects are driven by the least-skilled export-manufacturing jobs which raised the opportunity cost of schooling for students at the margin.
It makes sense, of course, that students on the margin might happily abandon school in favor of a good job. But is that necessarily a bad thing? How should a society balance jobs and educational ambition? And who should be thinking harder about this issue — India or China? Or perhaps the U.S.? Read More »
A reader named Mark Weitzman calls our attention to a Yomiuri Shimbun article with a provocative claim:
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Quake efforts blamed for rise in snow mishaps
This winter’s heavier snowfall has seen more than 500 people across seven prefectures die or become injured in snow-related accidents, including cases in which they had been trying to remove snow, it has been learned.
People are trying to remove snow themselves using shovels and other tools because of delays in municipal-led snow removal. The delays have been caused by a shortage of dump trucks–many of which are being used in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake for reconstruction work–to transport snow.
According to data compiled by the Akita, Aomori, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama and Yamagata prefectural governments, the death toll from such snow-related accidents had reached 31 as of Wednesday, while 479 people had sustained injuries.
I was in Tokyo a few weeks ago speaking at IBM’s Business Analytics Forum. At 6:30 in the morning a few hours before my talk, I had a wonderfully rejuvenating swim at the Royal Park Hotel. But I was surprised to see a pool-side sign stating “Persons With Body Tattoos Not Allowed.”
I have swum at dozens of pools in the United States and have never encountered such a restriction. Is there any valid public health reason for tattoo discrimination? Is the pool policy driven by irrational health concerns (a la the early days of HIV hysteria)? Read More »
What happens when the heir to a family business isn’t up to the job? Not great things, apparently. But the Japanese have a solution: adult adoption. Rather than hand the firm to a less-than-worthy blood heir, Japanese families often adopt an adult to take over. This tradition is the subject of Vikas Mehrotra‘s paper “Adoptive Expectations: Rising Sons in Japanese Family Firms,” which is featured in our latest podcast and hour-long Freakonomics Radio special “The Church of Scionology.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player, or read the transcript here.)
America and Japan have the highest rates of adoption in the world – with one big difference. While the vast majority of adoptees in the U.S. are children, they account for just 2% of adoptions in Japan. The other 98% are males around 25 to 30. Mehrotra believes this is the key to one of Japan’s unique differences. Across the developed world, family firms under-perform professionally-run businesses. But in Japan, it’s the opposite. Japan’s strongest companies are led by scions, many of them adopted. Read More »