TT-641 -- Counseling a Generation of Unloved Singles, ebiz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, December 04, 2011, Issue No. 641


- What's New -- Counseling a Generation of Unloved Singles
- News -- Mammoth clone experiment being discussed
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- News Credits

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Two weeks ago a Welfare Ministry think tank released
results of a survey showing that 61.4% of single Japanese
men aged 18-34 have no girlfriend and that 49.5% of the
same age women are not dating either. As is often the case
with government surveys, the real interest was in people's
attitudes to getting married rather than how they spend
their lives as singles, since this directly impacts the
birth rate and therefore the worker base to support social
welfare in the future. The sample was 7,000 people,
representing an overall population of around 18m people.

60% of those polled said they were still single either
because of work and study commitments (40%) or because they
hadn't met the right person yet (20%). This certainly
tallies with the common wisdom that with the Japanese
domestic economy stuck in a permanent recession (i.e.,
"domestic" versus exporters who are carrying the country),
people are having to work longer and in lower paid jobs in
order to support themselves. If you're broke, exhausted, or
depressed, getting married is probably the least of your

It's hard to see this situation changing any time soon, if
we go by conventional wisdom alone, since the outlook for
the nation itself is pretty bleak. By 2030, there will only
be 1.8 workers for every retired person, meaning that
either taxes have to go way up or that retirement will
become a time of relative poverty for many. This isn't the
kind of future that makes people want to expand their lives
with a partner and a family.

But for us the really interesting segment in this poll was
the 40% who said there was "no real need" to get married,
and of these, 45% of the men (as a population group, around
1.4m people) who said they have no particular interest in
dating the opposite sex. So what's going on there?

[Continued below...]

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[...Article continues]

Partly the answer is to be found in the age group being
questioned. 18-34 year olds are no longer necessarily prime
marrying age group even though statistically the average
marrying age for men is 30.5. There is a significant number
of men (in particular) getting married much later than
this. In our own circle of friends, we know of a number of
eligible bachelors in their mid-30's and early 40's who
have been having a very satisfying social life, and are
only just starting to get down to the idea of getting

So is it selfishness that is causing people to want to
enjoy their single lives longer? Possibly. Certainly the
idea of having kids is to most people a negative one. Kids
slow you down, they are a big drain on income, they need
constant attention, there are long waiting lines for day
care, and they force you to stay with one partner for a
long period. In fact, apart from the feelings of love, they
have very little going for them.

And if you come from a generation (the 80's) when the
parents were continually busy, or continually worried and
depressed (the 90's) then probably this 18-34 age group
didn't get a lot of love and affection as children -- so
why would they equate having children with love and
tenderness themselves? Easier to skip between partners
without too much emotional entanglement, or to avoid having
partners all together.

What we are saying is that we think there are a lot of
people in this age segment who have emotional issues and
given the current declining but still generous social
environment, they have the luxury of being able to pander
to these feelings rather than repress them as earlier age
groups in Japan's factory worker era had to do. As a
result, you have a swathe of singles who are responding to
their own childhood feelings by either withdrawing from the
dating game or by leading alternative singles-oriented life
styles. If this assumption is true, it means that the
government's hand-wringing over child-care centers and how
to get people to date more may all be for naught.

This might sound kind of deep, and indeed, we could be
wrong. Maybe it is all just about the economy. After all,
births did increase for several years (2006-2009) after the
mini-recovery of 2004-2007. However, marriages did not
bounce at the same rate, and currently there are still only
700,000 marriages a year in Japan (2010). Most likely that
birth blip was in existing families having an extra child,
rather than singles suddenly feeling paternal/maternal

How can Japan address its declining marriage rate? If the
problem is psychological at a personal level, then it may
not be possible through the economy alone, to reverse the
trend of people not wanting to commit. Yes, there are the
fence sitters, and the government could go a long way
towards getting those people to marry, simply by
making it easier for couples to have and look after
children. We thought the DPJ's now unpopular action of
providing generous child welfare checks was a great idea,
although political pressure has since reined in that move.
And besides, the fence sitters are just the low-hanging
fruit in the search for a solution.

A larger segment of the perpetually unmarried population
has deeper problems. For them, we believe the only way
forward is emotional counseling to help change attitudes
towards children and to discover love and tenderness that
must have been lacking in their lives. The challenge is in
getting those with such problems to face up to them and to
get them to seek out such counseling. Generally emotional
distress in Japan (as with anywhere, really) is viewed
publicly as a personal weakness, and so people who need
such help repress it. This is nothing new, but whereas in
the 60's and 70's factories, dormitories, and extended
families ensured that young people got married, now the
anonymity of urban living lets them hide away.

There is also the problem of how community counselors are
perceived. Generally speaking counseling is not considered
a profession in Japan, as evidenced by the fact that
testimony from counselors is typically not accepted by
family courts (versus that of clinical psychologists, who
are more likely to be taken seriously). As a result,
counselors tend to be well-meaning but usually woefully
under-qualified and usually non-paid old folks, who
compound the negative image. To get past this
negative presentation of counseling, both the image and
education needed to become a counselor really needs

Indeed, we think the government should make the increasing
number of unmarrieds a serious national priority. Instead
of cute census-style polls, there should be some proper
government funded studies into the psychology and social
situations of this large group of people, with a commitment
to follow through with professional counseling and social
programs to help people get past their aversion to getting
married. Unfortunately, since this sort of initiative will
involve potentially millions of people, plus modification
of the school system (so as to not perpetuate the problem),
it's unlikely to happen in our lifetimes.

So what's the alternative? How about increasing
immigration...? :-)

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Almost 90% of manufacturers look to overseas markets
- Mammoth clone experiment being discussed
- Mixi/Twitter create alliance
- Consumers forget how to use electricity again

-> Almost 90% of manufacturers look to overseas markets

If there was any doubt that export fever is upon us, the
results of a Ministry of Finance poll should put it to
rest. According to the survey, a full 87.2% of
manufacturers plan to strengthen or expand foreign
operations, while just 25.9% said they will expand
domestically. Chemicals and auto companies are the
sectors most interested in foreign expansion, at 92.1% and
91.6% respectively. ***Ed: Plenty of global and
international services business as this trend picks up.**
(Source: TT commentary from, Dec 2, 2011)

-> Mammoth clone experiment being discussed

Researchers from Kinki University and Sakha Republic
(Russia) are apparently discussing the viability of
creating a cloned Mammoth from a 10,000-year old but
well preserved bone marrow of an animal found in
Siberian permafrost in August this year. The plan calls for
implanting bone marrow cells into the egg cells of an
elephant. The resulting embryos would then be implanted
inside elephants for gestation. ***Ed: Put the resulting
Mammoth on display at Ueno Zoo, and this could be part of
some bold plan to bring tourists back to Japan... ;-)!
(Source: TT commentary from afp on Google, Dec 3, 2011)

-> Mixi/Twitter create alliance

Data just publicized by Nielsen NetRatings Japan shows that
Japanese SNS operator Mixi is falling farther behind its
foreign competitors and that the Galapagos effect has no
value in web applications. According to Nielsen, Twitter
had 14.5m users, Facebook 11.3m, and Mixi 9.4m. Perhaps
not coincidentally, Mixi and Twitter are announcing a
strategic alliance, aimed at presenting each firm's
complementary services to the users of the other. ***Ed:
This is all supposedly part of a competitive response to
Facebook, which is making tremendous gains in Japan over
the last 12 months.** (Source: TT commentary from, Nov 30, 2011)

-> Consumers forget how to use electricity again

Perhaps the "setsuden" energy saving message was too good,
because it seems that Tohoku and Tokyo residents have
forgotten how to use electricity in the same volumes they
did pre-3/11. Overall the demand for power nationwide fell
5.4% in November, compared to November last year. However,
what is perhaps more surprising is that power consumption
for last month fell an amazing 8.8% and 8.2% for Tohoku
and Tokyo respectively. ***Ed: This is now the ninth month
of y-o-y declines, and must have the utilities companies
worried. After all, what is setsuden for us is lost business
for them.** (Source: TT commentary from, Dec 3,

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.



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