- Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters
A number of countries with dwindling populations desperately want their citizens to have more sex, but Japan is going the extra mile.
Around the country, local Japanese governments have set up speed-dating services where people can come to meet potential lifelong partners.
The programs come in response to the country’s population woes. Due primarily to younger generations losing interest in getting married and starting families, the population has actually shrunk by more than 1 million since 2010.
Economists, not typically an alarmist bunch, have called the situation a “demographic time bomb,” which has led Japan to initiate a multi-pronged approach to reverse the trend.
In 2015, the federal government signed into law a set of policies to expand nursery care, empower fathers to take paternity leave, and implement local matchmaking services.
Save for the large-scale demographics stakes, these matchmaking services work like you might expect. Single people show up to go on quick dates one after another. When they’re done, they follow up with people they find most compatible.
If the conversation gets too awkward, a “marriage-promotion committee” will step in to smooth things alone.
In Japanese, the practice is known as konkatsu, or “marriage hunting.” The term was coined in 2007 by Chuo University sociology professor Masahiro Yamada. (He also coined the term “parasite singles” around 2000 to refer to young people who drain their parents’ resources.)
Many local authorities see marriage hunting as a major step toward bumping the fertility rate back up to healthy levels.
“When you think about how to prevent a decreasing population, nothing starts without marriage,” Kazuhiko Suzuki, an Ishioka city official, told CNN.
But the problem might be larger than a simple two-minute date.
It may, in fact, be more endemic to how people are expected to manage their work-life balance. Unlike countries that offer more generous parental leave, Japan only offers 14 weeks of maternity leave at 60% pay. Fathers don’t get any paid time off, but many men work upward of 80-hour weeks.
Government-run speed-dating may help get people into bed, in other words, but it’s not likely the grand solution to the problem of Japan’s extinction.