ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.323
Analysis of the relation between low fertility and living conditions among never-married women : Empirical evidence from survey data

Shigeki Matsuda
Professor, Faculty of Contemporary Sociology, Chukyo University
Takayuki Sasaki
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business Administration, Osaka University of Commerce
Shizuka Takamura
Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Akiko Oosawa
Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Hiromu Onoda
Executive Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Miho Fujisawa
Senior Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Hideki Uemura
Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Ayako Ishida
Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office


The decline of birthrate since the mid-1970s is mainly due to the growing percentage of people not getting married. It is therefore essential to understand the factors underlying the trend of not marrying and enhance countermeasures against the falling fertility rate to stop the trend in order to recover the birthrate.

With the purpose of figuring out the current trend of the declining birthrate and the situation of unmarried people, the Economic and Social Research Institute conducted the secondary analysis of “The Fourteenth Japanese National Fertility Survey (for unmarried people)” carried out in 2010 (target respondents :unmarried men and women aged between 18 and 49).

Further, we investigated attitudes toward marriage among never-married men and women between the ages of 25 and 39 (“Internet survey on the marriage and work conditions among never-married men and women”), aiming to obtain basic references for exploring the trend of not marrying in more depth. In the survey, we asked the same questions with the National Fertility Survey , compared the results while inquiring about the living environment (e.g., conditions of family members, work environment, respondents’ work style, and conditions of residential area), and analyzed the points that could not be clarified by the National Fertility Survey . Between July 2014 and May 2015, five meetings were held to complete this DP.

The first part of this paper provides the overview of the Internet survey we carried out, purposes of the survey, survey methods, and key survey results. The second part shows the results from the secondary analysis of the National Fertility Survey and the analysis of the Internet survey by investigating never-married people’s attitudes toward marriage and their values from different perspectives. The topics and key results of analyses are as follows:

1) Relations between opportunities of encountering partners at workplace and desire to marry

Based on the finding that non-regular employees tend to show lower desire to marry than regular employees, we examined if the reason for this tendency was attributable to the “hypothesis of encountering (Deai Kasetsu),” derived from the hypothesis of marriage market mismatches. The results indicated that this hypothesis was applicable in general.

One of the factors contributing to the low desire to marry among non-regular employees was that they were less likely to have romantic partners. Moreover, the measurement of the network of the opposite sex at workplaces revealed that employees living in areas other than Kanto area, employees working for small companies, and non-regular employees had few opportunities to work with unmarried people of the opposite sex. In addition, the rate of regular employees around non-regular employees was small. As a result, it was found that such characteristics of the network reduce the motivation toward marriage among non-regular employees.

Thus, more opportunities to find their partners need to be given to the young generation when chances of meeting their partners are small. It is also required to enhance marriage supporting systems particularly available to employees living in areas other than Kanto area, employees working for small companies, and non-regular employees. As non-regular employment is increasing, it is necessary to promote stable employment for the young generation.

2) Obstacles for never-married men and women to find partners

We analyzed the factors preventing never-married men and women with desire to marry from encountering their potential marriage partners, considering the characteristics of each region while associating them with individual attributes and conditions they have for their marriage partners. In the case of women, they were not positive about finding their partners as they did not see many benefits in getting married when they lived with their parents. Parents’ better economic circumstances provided both men and women with more opportunities to encounter their potential partners. These results suggest resources are moving down the generations. The better parents’ economic circumstances are, the higher the rate of college-educated people, the rate of regular employment, and annual salary become for both men and women. The annual salary of never-married employees has larger influences on chances of encountering for unmarried men in particular.

For never-married women, long working hours lessened the opportunities to find their potential partners. Further, women who had positive attitudes about having children tended to request stricter conditions for men, thus feeling difficulties in finding potential partners. Men living in large cities with the stereotyped perception for gender roles , women living in small- and mid-sized cities with the stereotyped perception for gender roles, and women placing an importance on financial resources of men feel that they cannot find their potential marriage partners.

Regional characteristics including demographic composition, such as age, educational background, and employment status in the cities, towns, or villages they live in, were not obstacles for those never-married people. However, it is required to draw up countermeasures suitable to the actual situation in each region, as inhibitors for encountering potential partners vary depending on the size of cities. In addition, when considering the present state where the stereotyped perception for gender roles is one of the factors hindering opportunities to discover potential marriage partners, reconstruction of the current stereotyped perception for gender roles in families is necessary. In other words, improved support and environment development to deal with combining demands of work and family are needed for both men and women. The socialization of child rearing and poverty reduction for children are also crucial when the intergenerational mobility of resources and the generational chain of poverty contribute to the decline of birthrate.

3) Factors regulating desire for marriage and childbearing among unmarried people

The motivation toward marriage and desire to have children are simultaneously occured. Analysis of factors regulating both the motivation and desire revealed, on the one hand, that the perspectives of increase in annual salary in the future had a positive impact on desire for both marriage and having children among unmarried men regardless of their employment status. In the case of female regular employees, on the other hand, they tended to become more apathetic to marry when they could expect increase in their annual salary.

It was also discovered that the sufficiency of social capital in family, workplace, and society strengthened both motivations toward marriage and having children. Good relationships with parents as a family-related factor and having opportunities for challenging tasks at workplaces as a job- and workplace-related factor had positive influences on the desire for marriage and having children, while continued employment of women at workplaces after marriage positively affects men’s and women’s desire to marry. It was found that high availability of regional child-care services had positive effects on both the desire for marriage and having children regardless of gender and employment status.

Because never-married people’s motivations toward marriage and having children strongly influence each other, it is necessary to develop a social environment that supports having children and to promote the enhancement of individual society-related capital. In light of the current situation where the purpose of marriage is converging with having children, clarifying benefits of marriage other than having children is also needed. Further, showing the young generation various kinds of role models for marriage is considered to be an effective approach.

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