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The low birthrate in Japanese society is continuing. Although the government is calling for a better work/life balance and proposing measures to improve services for child-rearing couples, these remedies won’t work unless the government develops measures that contribute to stabilizing the overall lives of workers — namely, their employment situation.

Ever since Japan’s fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman gives birth to during her lifetime, hit a low of 1.57 in 1989, the government has taken various measures to counteract the decline. Still, the birthrate has continued to drop.

Toward the end of 2006, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research said the aging of the population and decline in the birthrate decline will become more serious. Its estimate shows that the national fertility rate of 1.26 registered in 2005 will continue through 2055, pushing the population from 127.77 million down to 89.93 million.

And while the “productive” population — ages 15 to 64 — declines, the percentage of the population aged 65 or over will increase from 20.2 percent to 40.5 percent.

The health ministry’s survey shows that 90 percent of the people surveyed want to marry and have more than two children. If that happened, the fertility rate would rise to an estimated 1.75.

The fiscal 2008 draft budget outlays ¥1.571 trillion, an increase of 3.5 percent from the initial budget for fiscal 2007. There are plans to spend ¥390.5 billion for improving child-care services and ¥27.8 billion for improving mother-and-child health care, including measures to stem the drop in the number of obstetricians and pediatricians.

Even with these measures, the birthrate will not go up unless the workplace situation improves. One problem is the long working hours that make it difficult for men to help their wives with child-rearing. A bigger problem is that about 30 percent of the workforce consist of irregular workers such as temporary dispatched workers. Without confidence in their future, people are unlikely to marry and have children.

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