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Delayed childbearing and its impact on Japanese society

There’s a need to look into the long-term consequences on family dynamics, social structures, and broader fabric of society
A family rides a Japanese rickshaw, a traditional two-wheeled passenger cart, near Sensoji Temple, a popular tourist attraction, in Tokyo on April 29. The overall birth rate in Japan has been experiencing a decline and there has been a noticeable surge in the number of individuals choosing to give birth at older ages, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's demographic statistics.

A family rides a Japanese rickshaw, a traditional two-wheeled passenger cart, near Sensoji Temple, a popular tourist attraction, in Tokyo on April 29. The overall birth rate in Japan has been experiencing a decline and there has been a noticeable surge in the number of individuals choosing to give birth at older ages, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's demographic statistics. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Published: September 29, 2023 04:39 AM GMT
Updated: September 29, 2023 08:10 AM GMT

Recently a tweet posted by a 48-year-old Japanese woman who chose to give birth at an advanced age has not only captured public attention but also become the focal point for a highly charged debate.

The tweet provoked a wide array of opinions, with critics questioning the wisdom of giving birth during such a late stage of a woman's life, due to the potential adverse effects it may have on the child's health and overall well-being.

The criticism in this particular case serves as a catalyst for a larger and more intricate discussion. A broader societal conversation is underway regarding the increasing number of Japanese women who are deliberately delaying motherhood until their 30s and 40s.

Not many people know that Japan stands as a global hub for infertility treatments, a fact underscored by the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology's statistics.

In 2019 alone, a substantial 60,598 children were born in the country through the assistance of in vitro fertilization (IVF). This statistic positions Japan as a leading nation in the realm of infertility treatments, with a notable 1 in 14 children born via IVF.

Further data from the International Commission for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology for the year 2017 illustrates a staggering number of approximately 445,000 IVF procedures performed within the country.

"The availability of insurance coverage has played a pivotal role in motivating more individuals to explore and opt for infertility treatments"

This places Japan firmly at the top of the global rankings, surpassing the United States, which was in second position with around 180,000 cases, and Russia in third place with approximately 135,000 cases.

Obviously, the availability of insurance coverage has played a pivotal role in motivating more individuals to explore and opt for infertility treatments.

Intriguingly, while the overall birth rate in Japan has been experiencing a decline, there has been a noticeable surge in the number of women choosing to give birth at older ages.

Data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's demographic statistics in 2020 paints a revealing picture: a notable 29.2 percent, which is almost 1 out of 3 births, were given by women who were 35 or older, and included second and subsequent children.

Furthermore, a significant 5.9 percent of the total births were given by those aged over 40, a marked increase from the mere 0.5 percent reported in 1980.

This changing trend is evidenced by the average age at which women have their first child, which has remained at 30.7 years since 2015 — a stark 4.3 years older than the average in 1980.

Amidst the evolving of personal choices when it comes to giving birth, a critical question arises: What are the potential ramifications of this societal shift on the future generations of Japanese society?

Delving into this inquiry necessitates a thorough examination of not only the immediate health concerns for the child but also the potential long-term impacts on family dynamics, social structures, healthcare systems, and the broader fabric of society as a whole.

"Older parents may find it more challenging to keep up with the physical demands of raising a child"

Firstly, the health and well-being of the child are significant concerns. Advanced maternal age is associated with a higher risk of various health issues during pregnancy and childbirth, such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, and complications during labor.

Moreover, there's an increased likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome, potentially affecting the child's quality of life and necessitating additional care and support.

Furthermore, older parents may find it more challenging to keep up with the physical demands of raising a child, especially as the child grows older. They may face difficulties in engaging in active play and providing adequate supervision, potentially impacting the child's overall development and emotional well-being.

Additionally, older parents might experience health issues or face a decline in their own cognitive and physical abilities as their child reaches adulthood. This could place a burden on the child, requiring them to assume care-giving responsibilities earlier than peers, affecting their own education, career prospects, and personal lives.

Also, children born to older parents may face financial challenges. Older parents often have fewer years left in their careers to support their child's education, and they may struggle with retirement planning and providing for their child's future needs simultaneously.

Socially, children born to older parents might find it challenging to relate to peers who have younger parents. They may experience a generation gap, potentially leading to feelings of isolation or difficulty in forming strong social connections.

All in all, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the potential complications faced by the future generations of Japanese born to older mothers. A full understanding of the unique needs of these children is vital to ensure their healthy development and successful integration into society.

Policymakers, educators, and society at large should actively promote early childbirth through targeted media campaigns and diverse communication channels.

However, the present reality presents a contrary picture: there's a prevailing ideological inclination in liberal democracies of the West that emphasizes advancing early women's employment, therefore encouraging delayed childbirth.

While this strategy may offer some short-term economic relief, it carries the potential to lead to long-term consequences that could be disastrous.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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