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Japanese govt to launch official dating app to help citizens find love and save the country; do these platforms even work?

Japanese govt to launch official dating app to help citizens find love and save the country; do these platforms even work?
Dating is really hard right now. Throw in the rising cost of living, low quality of life, and rampant sexism that women and non-binary genders have to face, and it’s no wonder that developed countries are witnessing a crashing decline in birth rates worldwide. In fact, the situation has turned so catastrophic that over 150 schools in South Korea — the country with the lowest fertility rate — did not witness the enrollment of any first graders this year.

South Korean governments have attempted to throw a ton of government money at the problem, from monthly handouts to subsidised housing, to little avail. However, Japan — another country with a plummeting birth rate — has decided on a new, more-hip approach to solve the problem.

In a bid to address the alarming trend of loneliness and declining marriage rates, Japan’s government body has unveiled a new initiative called "Tokyo Futari Story". This program seeks to create lasting couples and reinvigorate Japan's flagging birth rate, which Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has described as the "gravest crisis our country faces."

The essence of "Tokyo Futari Story" lies in its name — "Futari," which translates to "two people." This reflects the initiative's primary goal: fostering romantic relationships that could lead to marriage. The initiative includes a website offering love advice and general information for singles, but its cornerstone is a dating app currently under development and scheduled for a late-2024 release.
Japan’s fertility challenges
Japan's marriage rate has fallen to an all-time low, with the country’s Health Ministry reporting a decrease from 504,930 marriages in 2022 to 474,717 in 2023. Correspondingly, the number of births fell from 770,759 to 727,277 over the same period. This downward trajectory has serious implications for Japan's demographic future, particularly given its status as the country with the world's oldest population after Monaco.

Several factors contribute to the declining birth rate. Long working hours, a culture of limited socialising outside of work, and the high cost of raising children are significant deterrents to marriage and parenthood. As mentioned earlier, this trend is not unique to Japan; many developed countries face similar challenges. However, Japan's situation is particularly critical given its ageing population.

The "Tokyo Futari Story" is part of a broader national strategy to counteract Japan's demographic challenges. Like South Korea, the national government has implemented various measures to address the labour shortage caused by the declining birth rate. These include financial incentives for families with children, expanded childcare facilities, and relaxed immigration policies to attract foreign workers.
Do dating apps work?
Online dating has only gained in popularity over the past few years, with the practice far more commonplace among younger adults than older people. According to a 2022 study, 3 in 10 US adults have used a dating site or app, with over half of the respondents expressing that they had a positive time with it.

However, the online dating experience can differ significantly between demographics. For instance, many women have noted that they feel more overwhelmed with the number of messages they receive on a daily basis, while a large number of men feel insecure for not receiving as many matches or messages. In addition, more men come away being excited about the people they meet, while a larger share of women have expressed disappointment with their matches. These experiences can have adverse impacts on their self-esteem and their outlook towards dating.

In addition, without the appropriate checks, online dating platforms can add to the harassment women face in real life — another key reason why many women in countries like Japan and South Korea are choosing to remain partner-less. Over half of the younger women in the earlier survey also mentioned that they have received sexually explicit messages or images without their consent.

However, this is not to say that dating apps are suffering from a bad track record either. According to a 2023 Forbes Health survey, nearly 70% of individuals noted that their online dating matches led to a romantic, exclusive relationship. That is a huge margin, especially in a world where dating has begun to seem like an overwhelming chore.

As Japan prepares to launch their dating app, it remains to be seen if this innovative approach might spark a new trend towards marriage and family life. The success of this initiative could provide a model for other regions facing similar demographic challenges.

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