Opinion by Michael Deacon, The Telegraph, 7/27/23
According to an alarming new poll, only 55 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 in Britain say they ever want to start a family. Those who said they never want children gave various reasons, including anxieties about money and “the impact on the environment”. But the most common reason they gave was as follows.
Apparently, they want “more time to focus on myself”.
Well, if they can manage to focus elsewhere for just a brief moment, they might want to read the latest news from Japan. Figures show that last year, the country’s population plummeted by almost a million – and it’s all because so many young people aren’t having children. In 2022, Japan saw a mere 771,000 births – the first time the number has fallen below 800,000 since records began, all the way back in 1899.
This shortage of children spells doom both for Japan’s economy and for its public services – and Fumio Kishida, the prime minister, is extremely worried. “Our nation,” he declared recently, “is on the cusp of whether it can maintain its societal functions.”
He isn’t the first to sound a warning. Five years ago, Toshihiro Nikai – who at the time was the secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party – told the youth of Japan that choosing not to have children is “selfish”. Clearly his words fell on deaf ears. In the year before he spoke out, the Japanese had 941,000 babies. Last year, they had 170,000 fewer.
It’s not just politicians who are panicking about Japan’s low birthrate, though. Even its criminals face a bleak future. Like the country’s businesses, its gangs are struggling to recruit fresh young talent. As a result, there are now said to be more Japanese gangsters in their 70s than in their 20s. In theory, this should at least make them easier to catch.
Unfortunately, however, Japan’s detectives are ageing, too. Their crime dramas must feature the world’s slowest car chases. I wonder if there’s a Japanese equivalent of Richard Osman. Except, instead of writing about elderly sleuths, he writes about an elderly crime ring.
At any rate, the way things are going, Britain will soon be in the same position as Japan – with the nursing homes overwhelmed, and the nurseries empty. It’s a terrifying prospect. By the time my generation reaches old age, I fear, there won’t be enough taxpayers of working age to subsidise our care. Or, for that matter, enough nurses to carry it out.
Still, at least we’ll have plenty of time to focus on ourselves. In particular, we can focus on how silly, short-sighted and self-indulgent we were.
Funnily enough, another reason young people gave for not wanting children is “fears about the state of the world”. But if we don’t have children, the state of the world is only going to get worse.