Divorce Rates in Japan Have Gone Down During COVID

While other countries have reported higher rates of divorce during lockdown, Japanese couples appear to be thriving.
September 2, 2020, 12:33pm
japan wedding
Japanese bride Mika Kobayashi (R) and groom Tsubasa Moriya (L) hold their wedding ceremony on May 1, 2019. Photo: JIJI PRESS / AFP

Japanese couples might be onto something. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on August 27 released the divorce statistics from January to June of this year, citing a significant 9.8 percent drop from the year prior.

According to the ministry, during that time period, there were 100,122 divorces—10,923 less than the year before.

Japan declared a nationwide state of emergency in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many residents expected the financial pressure and social uncertainty to take a toll on their personal lives. The term “corona divorce” began to trend in the country shortly after, as couples sharing small living quarters expressed frustration on social media.

A representative from the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare said that declining divorce rates observed over the last few months may be linked to couples wanting to wait out the pandemic before making a major life change.

“All of society’s activities are on lockdown at the moment, so there are probably a lot of couples who are waiting for things to calm down before they go through the process of getting divorced,” the representative said

Several Japanese companies were quick to adapt their services in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Japanese short-term rental firm Kasuko began offering its customers Airbnb-type units as temporary shelters for those who may want to escape their spouses, even just for a brief period of time. The company has priced its apartments at 4,400 yen ($40) a day.

Kasuko even went as far as to offer free divorce consultation with a legal officer. A Kasuko spokesman told AFP in April that the company had several customers within the first weeks it began offering the service. 

“Among the users of this service are a wife who said she fled after having a big fight with her husband and a woman who said she wants time to herself, as she is tired of taking care of her children who are at home all day because of school closures while her husband works remotely at home,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, other countries like China, Indonesia and elsewhere have reported higher divorce rates during the pandemic. China reported a surge in March, while Indonesia blamed financial hardships for the spike in recent splits.

How Coronavirus Caught Up With Japan

Russia even went as far as to call for a temporary divorce ban in March because of its high rate of marital breakdowns

Japanese netizens joked that as marriages appear to be flourishing under lockdown, the country may well soon see a “baby boom.” 

Another user explained that the drop in divorce rates made sense because “working at home allows for better communication and more time together.”