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Boom and Bust in Marriages Between Coworkers and the Marriage Decline in Japan


  • Miho Iwasawa
  • Fusami Mita


In this article, we focus on how the trend in meeting opportunities between men and women, especially at work or through jobs, is related to the decline in marriage. Using data from the Japanese National Fertility Surveys conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, we show the extent to which changes in the incidences of each type of meeting have contributed to the decline in the first marriage rate since the 1970s. The results indicate that the decrease can be attributed to the drop in the number of arranged marriages (including those resulting from introductions by relatives and superiors), which accounts for approximately 50 percent of the decrease, and to the drop in the number of marriages between coworkers or through meeting on the job, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the decrease. In other words, the incidences of other types of love marriages, such as meeting "at school," "through friends and siblings," and "while in town or traveling" have hardly changed in the past forty years. The role of matchmaker, once played by the corporate community under the unique population, economic, and employment conditions of the 1960s and 1970s, has been shrinking without a corresponding rise elsewhere. Most unmarried corporate workers, both men and women, continue to work long hours as in the past, without sufficient new opportunities to meet partners arising to offset the decrease in opportunities at work. These findings reveal that the supply side of shrinking opportunities for partner choice, as well as the demand side of marriage (cost and benefit), are significant factors in the rising proportion of the never-married. They also suggest that the current phenomenon cannot be readily resolved without drastic changes in attitudes toward the work-life balance, on the part of both companies and individuals.

Suggested Citation

  • Miho Iwasawa & Fusami Mita, 2007. "Boom and Bust in Marriages Between Coworkers and the Marriage Decline in Japan," Japanese Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(4), pages 3-24.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jpneco:v:34:y:2007:i:4:p:3-24
    DOI: 10.2753/JES1097-203X340401

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