The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering supporting matchmaking firms in an effort to reverse the declining birthrate.

The help would come in the form of a matchmaker certification program to increase public trust in the industry and subsidies to support cross-industry tieups, according to ministry officials.

According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, a ministry affiliate, single men accounted for 11.7 percent of men aged 30 to 34 in 1970, but the ratio had almost quadrupled to 42.9 percent in 2000.

The institute said single women accounted for 54.0 percent of women in the 25 to 29 age bracket in 2002, compared with 18.1 percent in 1970.

Some people say the increase in the number of unmarried people and those marrying later is due to a lower interest in forming relationships at work as companies move away from lifetime employment; estrangement from relatives who in the past would make introductions; and generally fewer opportunities to meet potential marriage partners, according to ministry officials.

The ministry created a research group in January to look at the matchmaking industry and potential for the future.

The research panel believes that the industry must improve its services to deal better with the changing trends in dating, said officials in the ministry’s service industry section.

Marriage advisers at matchmaking firms would have to get government certification.

The group thinks the matchmaking industry should do such things as give advice to singles on relationship building together with counseling organizations, the officials said.

Subsidies could be given to firms in the matchmaking industry for business tieups with companies in other industries under a proposed law to promote new business activities of medium and small enterprises, according to the research panel.

Tieups could include deals with temporary staff placement agencies, where many single people work, which would give the matchmakers access to a large number of potential customers.

More than half of Japan’s some 3,100 matchmaking companies are run by individuals and there have been cases of complaints from clients, so the ministry would create an outside organization to make certain firms followed the law and protected private information.

The ministry might even rank the companies, the officials said.

Singapore, which is also worried about its declining birthrate, began a matchmaking service in 1984, holding parties and using the Internet and other media for registered members to meet potential partners.

In Japan, the four top matchmaking companies — including OMMG Co., which runs O-Net services, and Zwei Co. — have about 140,000 members, but their memberships have leveled off in the last few years.

A spokesman for one of the large matchmaking companies welcomed the ministry’s ideas, saying, “People will feel less resistance to join and companies get deeper trust” from the public.

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