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Local governments are stepping up efforts to promote marriage to deal with the falling birthrate and the trend for people to get married later in life.

One Saturday, 52 single men and women gathered for a party at a hotel in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, for the “Gunma Red String Project” — a marriage assistance program launched by the prefectural government last year. Three hours later, 13 couples had been created.

The 2005 census found that about 47 percent of men and 32 percent of women in their early 30s were single.

But in a poll by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in 2005, 87 percent of single men between 18 and 34 and 90 percent of their single female counterparts hope eventually to marry. Asked why they have yet to tie the knot, many men and women between 25 and 34 said they couldn’t find the right partner.

“I wanted to find a partner, but there are few female employees at my workplace,” a man in his 30s who attended the Maebashi party said. “I hope opportunities like this will increase.”

A study group at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry found in 2006 that there were 600,000 members of private marriage counseling and marriage information services, indicating that demand for “marriage activities” is rising amid drops in arranged introductions and marriage “suggestions” from bosses.

The Nara Prefectural Government is holding as many as 30 events a month, and Gifu, Fukui and Yamanashi prefectures are holding lectures on how to dress appropriately and how to speak properly. Kagoshima has introduced a “go-between formula” in which volunteers are asked to find partners for single people.

But some local governments doubt public assistance will succeed. “Marriage is an issue to be decided by each individual, and the government should not intervene,” an official said.

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