Forbes has reported that Japan's population has fallen for the first time in 2005. The Japanese government is calling the falling population "a 'turning point' that will force the economy to adapt to a rapidly aging society." Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Jiro Kawasaki said that counter-measures must be taken to counter the falling birth rate, along with "measures to support and foster our future generations."
This falling birth rate should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the issue in Japan for the past year. This article from Foreign Policy [Author's note: You need to be a subscriber of Foreign Policy to read the article. It's also available at this link. Scroll down to read it.] described the growing dissatisfaction Japanese women have about their second-class status and dreadful treatment when it comes to marriage — dissatisfaction so pronounced that many of them have chosen to forgo marriage and childbearing. Japanese wives are expected to shoulder the household chores, wait on their husbands (including peeling his apples for him), and raise the kids. Japanese men poo-pooed their complaints, calling them "the twittering of birds."
This portion of the article caught my attention:
[Author Yoko] Haruka, a witty, 30-something essayist and television personality from Osaka, describes with clarity and biting humor the exasperation of Japanese womanhood in two recent books - collections of eminently readable essays called Kekkon Shimasen! (I Won’t Get Married!) and Hybrid Woman .
Haruka begins I Won’t Get Married! by describing her treatment at her own father’s funeral: She was told to sit and to walk behind her five brothers - younger as well as older - and made to understand that she wasn't wanted on the receiving line to greet relatives and family friends.
Haruka warmly admires her sister-in-law, who must put up with endless verbal abuse from her eldest brother, and her mother, who lives with them. The sister-in-law manages to smile self-effacingly even as she scurries to provide for their material needs, right down to putting a cold beer in her husband's hand as he steps out of his nightly bath. Haruka is exasperated by a favorite aunt who talks about her search for an "ordinary woman" to be her daughter-in-law. What the aunt means is a woman who will gladly make do with the 200,000 yen (less than $1,800) a month her son brings home, and who has no aspirations of her own.
Shortly before finding this article, I read a plea from an Indian wife who was at her wit's end dealing with her husband's family. She had been married for six years. Two years ago, her brother-in-law moved in . Her in-laws "visited" for six months last year. Compare what she wrote to Haruka's comments.
My mother in law was a disaster. She would constantly degrade me, try to separate me from my son, and make all sort of bizarre allegations. For her, only she was the best at everything. She would tell me that her family would eat no less that 5 dishes at any one time. Her food was being provided courtesy of my husband paycheck, no less. She was an aloof, manipulative, and user of people's money. She brainwashed my husband, and make sure he was on her side.