National

1 in 4 men, 1 in 7 women in Japan still unmarried at age 50: report

Kyodo

Nearly 1 in 4 men and 1 in 7 women in Japan were yet to be married at age 50 in 2015 in a clear sign that Japanese are increasingly shying away from tying the knot, a government report has showed.

The new report, obtained ahead of its release by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, showed the proportion of people who have never married by age 50 hit a record 23.37 percent for men, up 3.23 percentage points from the previous survey in 2010, and a record 14.06 percent for women, up 3.45 points.

The figures were in sharp contrast with a 1970 survey that showed 1.70 percent of men and 3.33 percent of women had never married by that age.

The data, which excludes people who were divorced or separated by the death of a spouse by age 50, is released every five years based on a national census.

Experts attributed the growing trend to less social pressure to marry and financial worries among workers as more people hold nonpermanent jobs.

It also comes amid a nationwide low birthrate that shows no signs of abating and growing concerns that more people will resort to nursing and health care services when they get older in the absence of a spouse or child that can provide such care.

“Being single for a lifetime is no longer a rare course of life,” said Akiko Kitamura, a senior researcher at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute who specializes in issues of marriage and childbirth.

“There is less social pressure to marry than before, and more people are choosing to stay single of their own will.

“At the same time, more young people cannot get married even if they wanted to because they cannot picture having a family, particularly a child, because of a lack of opportunity to meet people and of financial success.”

Kitamura said the country needed policies for “stabilizing employment and arranging an environment in which both men and women can work while raising children.”

Roughly 40 percent of Japan’s labor force comprises temporary workers, making unstable employment conditions more common than decades ago.

The report showed that by area, Okinawa had the largest percentage of unmarried men, at 26.2 percent, while Tokyo had the largest percentage of unmarried women, at 19.2 percent.

Another survey released by the governmental institute last year showed most unmarried people wanted to get married, but many cited a lack of finances as an obstacle.

In that survey, which targeted people aged 18 to 34, 86 percent of male respondents and 89 percent of female respondents said they hoped to eventually get married, while more than 40 percent said ensuring they had money for marriage was a hurdle they needed to overcome.