Japan might assist in Singapore’s efforts to set up matchmaking services, sources said Friday.

Officials from the Singaporean Ministry of Community Development and Sports met with representatives of the Japanese matchmaking services industry in Japan in late March. They proposed setting up a joint venture between Japanese and Singaporean firms or having Japanese firms start up matchmaking businesses in Singapore, the sources said.

The officials in the ministry’s Social Development Unit also visited the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to ask for cooperation.

The two Asian countries have a common problem of dwindling birthrates. In response, Singapore launched official matchmaking services in 1984. Japan meanwhile has a flourishing marriage brokerage industry, with five major service providers.

The sources said that Singapore probably decided to work with Japan because Japanese matchmaking firms have a reputation for sophisticated services. Singapore plans to privatize its matchmaking services.

Japanese companies will conduct research on marriages in Singapore and decide on Singapore’s proposals by this summer. Tokyo plans to support possible businesses run by Japanese firms in Singapore, the sources said.

The fertility rate of Japanese women — the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime — fell to a record 1.29 in 2003. The fertility rate of Singaporean women was 1.26 in 2003.

Singapore’s falling birthrate is one of its major problems, prompting the government to announce in August a child-support program that features larger financial incentives for raising kids.

Applicants to Singapore’s official matchmaking service register on the Internet by entering information such as their academic background and the kind of partner they would like to marry. The government also organizes matchmaking parties.

Around 110,000 people are registered, and about 2,000 couples who graduated from college were married last year using the services.

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