UCA News
Contribute

Fueling pessimism in Japan with dubious surveys

The Japanese are easily influenced by general trends and cultural fads backed by survey findings
A woman pats the head of a statue of two dogs for good luck during a visit to Suitengu Shrine, a popular place to pray for a happy and safe pregnancy and birth of a child, in the Ningyocho area of Tokyo on March 28, 2023. Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the country of 125 million since records began

A woman pats the head of a statue of two dogs for good luck during a visit to Suitengu Shrine, a popular place to pray for a happy and safe pregnancy and birth of a child, in the Ningyocho area of Tokyo on March 28, 2023. Japan recorded fewer than 800,000 births last year, the lowest in the country of 125 million since records began. (Photo: Richard A. Brooks / AFP)

Published: April 12, 2023 11:37 AM GMT
Updated: April 12, 2023 11:39 AM GMT

Surveys are often meant to gauge public opinion and provide insights into societal trends. However, some surveys are intentionally designed to push a political agenda, often using misleading data.

One such survey result that has gained significant attention says, "Half of the unmarried Japanese people under 30 don't want to have kids."

The Osaka-based corporation reports that 45.6 percent of women and 53 percent of men under 30 years old are not interested in having children, citing factors including the high cost and concern for Japan's future. Government data reveals the number of newborns in the nation last year plummeted below 800,000 for the first time since records began in 1899.

But it is well known that depending on how we formulate the questions we can have different results.

For example, if we were to ask, “Given your current salary do you foresee the possibility to raise a kid in a satisfactory manner,” 90 percent of average Japanese with an average salary would answer in a negative way.

Do we then assume that 90 percent of the people surveyed don’t want to have kids?

What if we ask them if they consider having a child a better option than staying single for the rest of their life?  You would agree that most people would answer yes. 

These surveys are recurring. There was another survey, this time conducted by the Japanese government in 2019, which also claimed that half of all unmarried Japanese people do not want to have children.

The results of the survey have been widely cited in the media and used as evidence to support the narrative that Japan is facing a demographic crisis due to a negative outlook toward the future.

However, upon closer inspection, the survey's methodology and data have been called into question. Experts have pointed out that the survey was only conducted among a small sample size of 1,700 individuals, and the data was collected through an online survey, which may not accurately represent the views of the entire population.

So these surveys are meaningless if they don’t provide us with the specifics on how they were conducted. Why do then they feed these answers to the public as if these were delivered from a prophetic source? This is the question we should ask ourselves.

There have been opinion makers who have been pushing the idea for some time that the earth seems to be overpopulated. 

We are not talking about the supposed "depopulation plan" that some individuals and organizations are said to be pursuing, but the gradual spread of the idea that the global population is growing too rapidly and needs to be reduced in order to prevent ecological collapse and ensure a sustainable future for humanity.

There is a whole series of books written by some experts who claim that humans are akin to viruses on earth.

One of the first and most famous expressions of this idea was made by the British economist Thomas Malthus, who argued in his An Essay on the Principle of Population that the human population would inevitably outstrip the planet's resources, leading to famine, disease, and other forms of suffering.

More recently, the idea has been explored by a number of writers and scientists, including David Suzuki, who argues that humans are consuming the earth's resources at an unsustainable rate and that we need to drastically reduce our ecological footprint in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.

In his book The Sacred Balance, Suzuki argues that humans are like cancer on the earth and that we need to adopt a more responsible and sustainable way of living if we are to survive as a species.

In a similar vein, American biologist and environmentalist Paul Ehrlich has suggested that we must take drastic steps to lessen our impact on the environment since the human population is putting unsupportable strain on the planet's resources.

Ehrlich famously foresaw a "population explosion" that would cause famine, sickness, and civil instability in his book The Population Bomb.

There are several potential dangers associated with this way of thinking.

First is the dehumanization factor. Comparing humans to viruses can lead to the dehumanization of individuals and groups, making it easier to justify policies and actions that would be considered unethical or inhumane in other contexts.

We have seen this taking shape in the past when different ethnic groups (Rwanda genocide) started calling each other names that would appear in a zoology book.

But one of the worst effects is fueling pessimism. The idea that humans are inherently destructive and cannot live sustainably on the planet can lead to a sense of hopelessness, making it difficult to generate the social engagement necessary to start a family or even pursue a career.

Japanese people are particularly sensitive to the behavior of others or better yet the perceived behavior of others; they are easily influenced by general trends and cultural fads.

We truly fail to understand the collective benefit of a survey whose results, as we have demonstrated, could be clearly manipulated but nonetheless have the potential to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Lent is the season during which catechumens make their final preparations to be welcomed into the Church.
Each year during Lent, UCA News presents the stories of people who will join the Church in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is their Lord. The stories of how women and men who will be baptized came to believe in Christ are inspirations for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the Church's chief feast.
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia