June 13 (UPI) — Japanese lawmakers passed a law Wednesday lowering the legal age of adulthood from 20 to 18, in an effort to fight the country’s growing demographic crisis.
The revised Civil Code will take effect in April 2022 and will enable 18 and 19 year olds to marry without parental consent.
Eighteen-year-old men and women can marry under the new law, but parental consent is required for anyone under the legal age of 20. That will change when the law takes effect in four years.
The new law marks the first time the age of adulthood has been changed in Japan since it was set in 1876.
Existing laws prohibiting people under the age of 20 years old from drinking alcohol, smoking and gambling have been kept in place.
Last year, Japan’s population shrank for the seventh consecutive year to about 127 million.
The World Health Organization considers a country to be an “aging society” when the proportion of people 65 or older exceeds 7 percent, an “aged society” if it surpasses 14 percent and a “super-aged society” if it is over 21 percent.
The world’s most aged society, Japan has the highest proportion at 28 percent.
A Japanese government institute predicted the country’s population will fall below 100 million in 2053, and below 90 million by 2065.
Japanese lawmakers said the new law should help the demographic crisis by spurring younger people into more social participation.