As Japan’s Residents Struggle, Its Government Funds Dating Apps

As Japan’s Residents Struggle, Its Government Funds Dating Apps

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AI and love
Picture: Graphs / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
As Japan deals with its worst moment of the COVID-19 crisis, its government seems more focused on getting people to make babies.

Turn on a Japanese news broadcast these days and the top subject is the same as it is anywhere in the world: COVID-19. Japan originally avoided the huge surge of cases seen elsewhere in the world. But its current “third wave” is now putting enormous strain on the country’s health care system. Health care professionals have been appearing on TV daily stressing the severity of the situation. And several of the country’s administrative regions, such as Osaka, have asked the government to deploy medical staff from the country’s Self-Defense Force to help relieve strained local resources.

It’s not that the Japanese government is doing nothing, mind you. It did just pass a $700 billion relief package meant primarily to subsidize hospitals, nursing homes, and businesses. However, the primary focus of the bill is not on stopping the spread of COVID-19. Rather, it’s on ensuring Japan’s economic recovery in 2021. The bill even included money to continue subsidizing the government’s controversial Go To campaign – a travel and dining discount campaign that medical experts say has contributed to COVID-19 spread.

The bill also doesn’t contain direct monetary support to residents of Japan. As we’ve discussed before, the pandemic has taken a hard financial and psychological toll on many worldwide, with women feeling the worst effects. Earlier this year, the Abe admin passed a stimulus bill that gave US $930 to every adult and child in the country. Since then, however, households have largely been left to their own devices.

Rebuild The Economy (And The Population)

The Liberal Democratic Party has a simple solution to the depopulation problem: Japan, they maintain, just needs to breed its way out of it. Click To Tweet

But the pandemic isn’t the only thing on politicians’ minds in Japan. They’re still attempting to tackle the country’s depopulation issues, after all. It’s predicted that, by 2045, the country’s population of 127 million will dwindle to 106 million.

Many women in Japan argue that the best way to tackle this problem would be to make Japan a place that’s easier to raise kids. A major issue is the chronic lack of daycare, which prevents at least one spouse – usually women in heterosexual marriages – from returning to work. Women in Japan also point to the undue burden of housework placed on working women and the everyday prejudice against moms using strollers on public transport as factors that make raising children in Japan difficult.

However, the Japanese government is led by the conservative-leaning Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). And the LDP has a simple solution to the depopulation problem: Japan, they maintain, just needs to breed its way out of it.

In what might be the most…innovative attempt to tackle the problem yet, the Cabinet of current Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide announced that it would support local governments that are introducing Artificial Intelligence -based “matching systems” to help residents find love. The government says that it will pay up to 2/3rds of the cost of development of such systems, which rely on algorithmic analysis of large data sets to whittle down potential life partners.


This move isn’t entirely the product of someone’s fevered imagination. Some local governments have already seen results from intelligent matching apps. Aichi Prefecture, for example, says it saw a rise in successful matches from 13% to 29%.

“A Short-Term Strategy”

The issue is not merely that people can't find adequate life partners – it's that many of them have stopped looking. Click To Tweet

While the government might seem some success with this approach, not everyone’s happy that it’s coming at taxpayer expense. And such an approach, as I mentioned, doesn’t address any of the structural and social issues surrounding raising children in Japan. As journalist Tsuda Daisuke put it: “This is a country that only proposes short-term strategies, even as people scream that the correct approach isn’t AI matching apps but a robust strategy of support for child-rearing.”

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Also, it’s questionable whether a mere network of dating applications can buck Japan’s rising trend against marriage. The issue is not merely that people can’t find adequate life partners – it’s that many of them have stopped looking. A poll last year of unmarried people in Japan found economic pressures, inequality, and lack of desire to have children were all key reasons why more people in Japan elect to stay single.

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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