The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major decline in the number of new marriages in Japan, with there expected to be some 150,000 fewer newly wedded couples than expected in the three years to the end of 2022, a recent study showed.
The fall, believed to be a result of several factors including fewer opportunities to socialize due to pandemic-related restrictions, could also lead to around 243,000 fewer babies being born if there is no recovery in the new marriage rate, researchers warned.
The findings by Asako Chiba, a postdoctoral fellow at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, and Taisuke Nakata, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo, come when Japan was already facing a worrying trend of falling numbers of marriages and newborns.
According to the government, the number of new marriages in the country decreased almost every year since totaling around 700,000 in 2010.
Based on the trend, the researchers estimated the expected number of new marriages for the three years from the start of 2020 to the end of 2022 without the pandemic and compared them to the actual figures for 2020 and estimates for the next two years.
The number of new marriages in 2020 stood at around 526,000, about 50,000 lower than the projected figure, while the number for 2021 was expected to be about 501,000, some 63,000 fewer than the forecast, the researchers said.
The declining trend is predicted to continue in 2022 although there are signs of recovery, with the number of marriages likely to total around 515,000, about 38,000 lower than the projection.
The researchers also attributed increased financial stress as among the factors linked to the projected decline.
The researchers warned that unless there is a significant increase in the number of births per woman, generally, the decrease in marriages will directly lead to a fall in the number of births.
"The social and economic impact of the coronavirus takes time to manifest," Chiba said. "Policymakers need to recognize a crisis is steadily approaching."
The number of annual marriages in Japan has been steadily falling since peaking at over 1 million in the early 1970s. The number of births has also been trending downward, with the figure slipping to a record low of about 810,000 in 2021 from its peak at around 2.09 million in 1973.