It's hard to argue that modernity sucks when people are so mesmerized by their iphones and air conditioners, but there are some aspects of modernity which are quite easy to argue against. One being the aesthetic violence it inflicts on all of us with ugly architecture and the public promotion of sexual deviancy. And the other being low fertility. Funny how we live in the greatest era of all time, we are the smartest and holiest and happiest people the earth has ever seen, yet people can't seem to be bothered to have children.
Now the problem of low fertility is like the fall of the Roman Empire, everybody discusses what caused it, and there are hundreds of theories out there, yet none seems to fit quite right. And that's a problem, because we're supposed to to do something about it. The causes of the Fall of Rome aren't really that important (unless you think they might be useful to avoid the collapse of Western Civilization), but measures to raise the birthrate are a common policy problem in all modern countries. And yet we don't really know what's causing it, so most policy measures to raise the birthrate simply end up being a way to signal support and issue pork to whatever group has the upper hand in representing women with the bureaucracy.
The country most affected by low birthrate is Japan, not because it's the lowest in the world, although it's close, but because the process started earlier, so Japan is already losing population (although I think Germany is losing native population too). The Japanese government has been discussing the issue for decades, which of course hasn't helped a bit to solve the problem, but has produced tons over tons of studies and graphs and statistics of all sorts. The official population forecast graph is this:
What is says up there is that with current birthrates, by 2050 Japan will have a total population of 95 million, 8.2 million young, 49.3 million middle aged, and 37.6 million old people. And while 95 million people is still a whole lot of people for a country with barely 100k km2 of inhabitable land, well having 8 million youngsters against 37 million elderly is not good. Not good at all. Especially when those 37 million get pensions and free healthcare, and have a tendency to live up to 90 years old.
Now my first instinct is say: well stop paying the damn pensions. Especially when right now 60% of the assets in the country are owned by old people (at present 20% of the population). The average savings for an elderly household today in Japan is over 30 million yen. Yes I know they paid their money to the pension fund but they don't really need the money. And while it's grossly unfair to deny them a pension which was promised to them because the government spent it in pork for their cronies, surely it's more unfair to tax the dwindling young generation back to the stone age. All to raise funds to pay for the n eye surgery for 85 year old grandma.
But of course all politics are local, bureaucratic gridlock is what it is, politicians and bureaucrats are themselves increasingly old so nobody will touch the sacred pensions and healthcare. But the question remains: how do we pay the damn thing. To their credit, the bureaucracy has started to cut pensions and is talking on rising the retirement age. But of course they are also raising taxes everywhere they can. And then there's the big project. Raise the population!
To raise the population you need to: 1. Bring immigrants, 2. Put unemployed people to work, or 3. Raise the birthrate. As you might expect, the American embassy, the business community, the QUANGO lobbies et al. are extremely busy in trying to promote immigration to the country. "Japan is not for the Japanese", said the infamous Hatoyama Prime Minister, the son of a billionaire, Stanford educated, self-proclaimed freemason. Thankfully he didn't last long, and the bureaucracy has been very prudent about bringing immigrants. In the heyday of Japanese manufacturing, factory labor was lacking so Japan started a Gastarbeiter program to find workers. But instead of muslim Turks they had the sense of bringing back Brazilian Japanese, the descendants of Japanese emigrants who were sort sorta pushed out of the country in the poor postwar days.
It didn't work out very well, as many non Japanese Brazilians got in, and even the purely ethnic Japanese Brazilians had absorbed Brazilian culture all too well. It's a known problem in the country that the Brazilians refuse to learn the language and manners, are not stellar workers and pretty much a pain in the ass. Once Brazil started booming again a decade ago the government was fast in getting them to go back home, with mixed success.
After Japan run out of foreign kin to bring back to work, well it could only look for real foreigners. The bureaucracy pretty much delegated the whole idea to the business community, whose idea it was from the beginning. So Japan started a "training visa" system, which bring foreigners to work in farms or factories across the country with a special visa which ties you to your workplace, where they pay you whatever they want, not subject to minimum wage laws. As it I've heard of average wages of 300 yen per hour, which is between half and a third of the local minimum wage.
What's funny is that officially the system is not a guest worker system to help local industry. It's a "skill training project", which ostensibly teaches Japanese technology to third world people, so they can go to Japan, learn the stuff and get the fuck back to their countries. So they will introduce all those marvelous Japanese methods they have learned and promote goodwill with Japan in their countries. Right. As it is most people under this system were Chinese, but with higher wages in their homeland and bad relations between the countries the Chinese have been decreasing precipitously, and with Abe anti-China foreign policy, the focus is now on building friendship with Southeast Asia, so it's all Vietnamese and others coming now.
Still the numbers are quite small, with around 150k in total. They are trying to bring some more to build stuff for the Olympics, but there's this little problem with over 10% of the "trainees" going "missing", i.e. going to work in the underworld, usually employed by local mafias. Many are forced to, to pay for the mafias who arranged their going to Japan in the first place. And you can't pay the mafia loans working for 3 bucks an hour in a farm.
I used to get very riled up about all this talk on bringing immigrants to Japan, but I reached the conclusion that there's not that much to fear. The Chinese aren't coming anymore, so they can't take over, and who the hell is going to come anyway? Most of Southeast Asia has sub-replacement fertility already, so it's not like they have that many people to spare, and the working conditions in Japan aren't that spectacular. Working in Japan is notoriously harsh even for the locals, imagine how they treat a Vietnamese or Indonesian 85 IQ peasant. It seems the Japanese nation might be saved by the sheer nastiness of their business community and the very fortunate distance from Africa. Maybe the Japanese Islands were chosen by the Sun God after all.
Anyway so migrants aren't paying the pensions, what about the unemployed? Well there's a million hikikomori who are either autistic, borderline autistic or so messed up emotionally they just won't leave their rooms. So who else can we use? Well who but Japanese women! Again I guess the American embassy has been telling the Japanese bureaucrats that the 70% of Japanese women are working. Only 70%!! How dare Japan not put 100% of all its women to work? And so it sent the Huffington Post to create a Japanese version to shame the Japanese bureaucrats into putting their wives into offices so they can have sexual fantasies with their bosses. And young Japanese women are even more willing to stay at home than their elder sisters, no doubt because they have seen how pathetic the life of the working woman usually is.
Still, Mr. Abe needs American support for his militarization program so he has to play ball with American feminism, and he has announced a Great Plan to put woman to work. They are also pushing for a law to put a quota of women in corporate boards, so big bosses can give their wives and mistresses a job and double their vote power. What's not to like? Of course the problem is that women don't work because they don't want to work, and the usual policy to put them to work is to put more money into public daycare. Because mothers are just craving to leave their fluffy tiny babies to some education major dumb girl and go sit their asses in an office for 12 hours a day. The good life.
And anyway, just do the math. How many foreigners, and women working does Japan need to be able to pay their pension obligations? At least 10 million foreigners and 200% of women. Not gonna happen. It doesn't add up. It's just stupid American pressure and excuses for pork. The only long-term way out is raising the birthrate. And raising it big. Japan has very extensive stats on the problem, and the fact is that the overwhelming majority of married couples have 2 children.
So why is the birthrate in the 1.30s? Because 30% of people never marry. The herbivores and their spinster counterparts are legion, and growing. Now making those people have sex, marry and have children is a whole different problem from setting incentives to raise the birthrate. I won't go there, although most of you might imagine what should be done about them.
So the issue is how to get married couples to have more than 2 kids? Now that's a problem. It's a huge problem. First because the average age of marriage for woman is now 29. And children out of wedlock are still taboo in most of society here. Are people supposed to have 5 kids starting at 30? Not very feasible. So the issue is getting women to marry earlier. Which means that men would also marry earlier. And that isn't a very good sell.
Still, when you see all the stats on fertility rates around the world, any objective analysis tells you that the best indicator for low fertility is women education. Even Kuwait, Iran or Saudi Arabia have seen their birthrates plummet once they took their girls to school. While Afghans who treat their women like cattle while they bugger 10 year old boys have their womenfolk churn 7 kids on average.
One can imagine many mechanisms for women education lowering the birthrate. Women reading too many books doesn't seem conducive to them marrying early and submitting to their husbands. But then there's a deeper psychological reason which I just came upon while seeing my wife with my kid. I have a lovely child which is cute and fluffy and adorable and the best-thing-that-ever-happened-to-me, I won't bore you with the details. My wife is staying at home as she always wanted, and I'm happy she does.
Still for all our conservative inclinations the fact remains that babies are a huge pain in the ass. It's still totally worth it and I hope to have many more pains in the ass like this one, but it's a lot of work. Not just a lot of work but it's just disrupting of all the life rhythms you have grown accustomed to (the darn thing insists on going for walks every morning, in winter). Of course you could just call me and my wife lazy (as my mother does), and you'd be right. People always tell me my baby is the best behaved and best slepeer they've ever seen and that I have nothing to complain about. Still sometimes it just gets into your nerves.
I came back home one night and gave my wife some work of mine I wanted her to help out with. I expected her to complain about being tired and all, but to my surprise she accepted eagerly and was instantly focused on the computer. Then without looking back she just said: "you play with the baby" and put herself to work. Now as I was telling you she loves staying at home and has no intention of ever going back to work in an office, but she cherished that little piece of office work I just gave her. She was at ease. It surprised me how comfortable she just seemed.
Then it struck me: it shouldn't surprise me at all. My wife had gone to school for almost 20 years, then worked in an office for several years too, doing office work which isn't that different from school work. For 20 years her brain changed its wiring to optimize itself to do what it was asked to: work with a piece of paper or a computer screen and process information. And if you're good at school, as my wife was, means her wiring got very deep. Doesn't mean she enjoys it, but she's good at it. Aren't we all?
Now compare that same stuff we've been routinely doing for 20+ years of our time with taking care of a baby. Yes that's supposedly also hard-wired in women's brains, and it's quite a sight to see how naturally it comes to them. Still many parts of child rearing go against everything you've been doing for a very long time. Is it a wonder that some women prefer work to marrying early and having babies? It's probably just inertia.
Now compare that to a woman 200 years ago, or probably an Afghan today. You have a bunch of siblings, some of whom may die but most of whom will not, and since you starting walking and talking sense you've been put to work in the household. Ever since you can remember there have been babies in the household, and as a girl you've also taken part in taken care of them. You might have gone to school to learn your letters and numbers but you're much more familiar with babies than you are pencil and paper.
Then in your teens if you're in Asia, or your mid twenties in Europe you are married off, and have babies right away, which is what is expected of you. You take care of your babies with some other women helping out, but still you know what do you because you've been doing it your whole life. That's what women do. You're hard-wired for it and soft-wired too.
Compared to that the modern woman is far more accustomed to writing bullshit papers for school and having fun in her free time than she is about playing with babies 24 hours a day without any real leisure at all. I guess that's part of the rationale behind the bureaucratic push for expanded daycare worldwide. But the fact that your baby is annoying on occasion doesn't mean you're willing to leave it 12 hours a day with some complete bureaucrat stranger who is likely to have some weird theories from her days in university.
Any reasonable calculation to get Japanese (or any industrialized country in a few years) population growing again would need the average married couple to have 4 children. It's not going to happen. Not even Mormons do that. And yes I know the optimistic evolutionary theory that people who like babies will inherit the earth. I'm sure they will given a 500 year timeframe, and that's assuming the heritability of "liking babies" is very high. But mid term we're going to hell before we solve this.