Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Washington Post. We reprint here:
People in Japan are so averse to romantic relationships that the country’s media even has a name for it: sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome,” according to a widely circulated Guardian story on the country’s low rates of marriage, childbearing and even sex.
But this is more than a story about Japan and its cultural quirks: It’s a story about the global economy. Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, a crucial link in global trade and a significant factor everyone else’s economic well-being. It owns almost as much U.S. debt as does China. It’s a top trading partner of the U.S., China and lots of other countries. The Japanese economy is in serious enough trouble that it could set the rest of us back. And the biggest source of that trouble is demographic: Japanese people aren’t having enough kids to sustain a healthy economy. One big reason they’re having fewer kids is that they’re not as interested in dating or marrying one another, in part because they’re less interested in sex.