The updated outline of government measures to fight Japan's low birthrate sets the right policy direction by calling for public support aimed at encouraging young people to marry among the steps to address the nation's demographic woes. But policymakers need to be aware that such efforts are not going to immediately halt the population's downtrend. What's needed will be steady long-term efforts to implement necessary steps.
While previous government efforts on the birthrate issue tended to focus on support for child-rearing by married couples, the outline called for encouraging marriage and childbirth at a young age among the priority tasks to be tackled in the coming five years.
Japan's total fertility rate — the average number of children that a women is estimated to give birth to in her lifetime — stood at 1.43 in 2013, having inched up from a record-low 1.26 in 2005, but it's still far below the 2.07 needed to maintain the population. Japan hasn't reached that level since 1973, and the long-term drop in the birthrate has contributed to the rapid aging of its society.