In a bid to boost its declining birth rate from next year onwards, Japan plans to start funding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to bring singles together, a government official said on Monday.
Matchmaking services have been on the rise in Japan, a country that has seen a growing number of ‘parasite singles,’ or people who refuse to get married. Around half of the nation’s 47 prefectures reportedly offer matchmaking services, some of which have already been relying on AI. However, most of these existing programs only consider criteria such as age, educational background, and income.
With the government backing the use of AI, more advanced systems will be put in place that can determine matches even if they are not compatible in the aforementioned criteria, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. Other factors will also be taken into account, including hobbies and personal values. The government plans to allocate two billion yen ($19,229,100) to local authorities that run matchmaking services to help their residents find love.
“We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” a cabinet official said. “We hope this support will help reverse the decline in the nation’s birth rate.”
The challenge to reverse its declining birth rate has been a long-standing struggle for Japan, which reported its lowest estimated birth rate last year — when only about 864,000 babies were born — since records began in 1899, CNN reported.
Studies show that this could be caused by the shifting workforce in Japan. In recent years, Japanese men have faced shrinking employment opportunities and lack of funds, which affect their marriage prospects. At the same time, more women are choosing to focus on their careers instead of getting married. For many, this is because they do not want to be tied down by the burden of managing a household and taking care of children, which comes with starting a family. The New York Times reported that women in Japan who worked more than 49 hours a week also typically do nearly 25 hours of housework a week. Meanwhile, their husbands do an average of less than five hours.
Japan has turned to various other measures in an effort to boost its birth rate, including incentivizing marriages, enforcing a child allowance system, and making pre-school education free. But it’s unclear whether such measures are effective, as 2019 marked Japan’s fourth consecutive year of a decline in birth rate. According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s population could drop to 82.13 million by 2065.