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Loveless and Single—and Happy That Way
Survey Sheds Light on Young People’s Relationships
[2016.10.11] Read in: 日本語 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL | العربية | Русский |

A recent survey in Japan, found around 70% of unmarried men and 60% of unmarried women aged 18 to 34 were not currently in a relationship. Economic and social factors appear to be behind the declining importance of romance in the lives of young Japanese.

Nearly a Third Show no Desire for Romance

More than half of unmarried Japanese people aged between 18 and 34 said that they were not currently in a relationship, according to a survey conducted in 2015 by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.(*1) The male share increased to 69.8% from 61.4% in 2010, when the survey was last taken, while the proportion of women climbed from 49.5% to 59.1%. Further, 30.2% of men and 25.9% of women from this age group said that they were not even interested in a relationship—although over 80% expressed a wish to get married at some time.

The share of unmarried respondents who said they were romantically involved was 19.7% for men and 27.3% for women, both slightly lower than in 2010. The trend suggests that romance is playing a decreasingly important role in young people’s lives. The highest percentage of dating singles was 33.1% for women in 2002, while the peak for men was 24.3% in 2005. Figures for both men and women have declined by around 5 percentage points over the past decade.

Virginity Becoming More Common

The share of people without any sexual experience has also been climbing since the first decade of the twenty-first century. As the chart below shows, after 2005, percentages for both men and women stopped falling and began to rise. The former large gap between responses for men and women, moreover, has noticeably narrowed.

Percentage of Unmarried Respondents Without Sexual Experience (By Age)

Age Survey Year
1992 1997 2002 2005 2010 2015
Men
18–19 70.9 64.9 64.2 60.7 68.5 72.8
20–24 42.5 35.8 34.2 33.6 40.5 47.0
25–29 24.8 25.3 25.6 23.2 25.1 31.7
30–34 22.7 23.4 23.4 24.3 26.1 25.6
Overall (18–34) 41.5 35.7 35.3 31.9 36.2 42.0
Women
18–19 77.3 68.3 62.9 62.5 68.1 74.5
20–24 53.0 42.6 38.3 36.3 40.1 46.5
25–29 44.4 34.1 26.3 25.1 29.3 32.6
30–34 40.9 28.8 26.6 26.7 23.8 31.3
Overall (18–34) 56.3 43.5 37.3 36.3 38.7 44.2

At the same time, the proportion of unmarried people who would like to get married one day remains as high as ever at 85.7% for men and 89.3% for women. The average age at which they would like to marry is 30.4 for men, the same as for the previous survey, and 28.7 for women, compared with 28.4 in 2010.

Fear of Failure

Why are people less involved in romantic relationships? Kitamura Kunio of the Japan Family Planning Association suggests three possible reasons: poor communication skills among young people, lack of money, and the spread of online services.

“Starting and deepening a romance require a great deal of effort,” Kitamura notes. “But more and more young people today aren’t willing to make that effort because they’re afraid of being rejected. A growing number are unable to find regular employment, so there’s an economic dimension to the phenomenon as well. This is leading to a polarization of society, with the haves being able to afford a romantic relationship and the have-nots being left without a partner as well.”

(Originally written in Japanese. Banner photo: A couple stands with a group of sheep eating feed that has been placed in the shape of a heart at a Valentine’s Day event at Mother Farm in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture. © Jiji.)

(*1) ^ The results of the 2015 National Fertility Survey were announced by NIPSSR on September 15, 2016. Of the total of 8,754 randomly chosen single respondents living in 900 locations, 5,276 were aged between 18 and 34. The survey specifically asked about heterosexual relationships. There was no mention of homosexual relationships.

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