The prime minister’s office recently conducted a survey of people in their 20s and 30s who still live with their parents. In Japan it is relatively traditional for offspring to remain living at home after graduating from school, especially if the offspring is an eldest son who is in line to take over the family business. But except for the eldest son, the other children usually leave after they get married. However, in recent years it appears that more and more adult offspring are opting to stay at home indefinitely as a matter of choice.
Sixty percent of the respondents said that the reason they haven’t moved out is that moving out “requires a lot of money,” which doesn’t necessarily mean these people don’t have money. Twenty-five percent, however, said that they do need money “to be independent,” which implies that they do not have the financial wherewithal to move out. And 19 percent said they do not have the “confidence” to live on their own, though in other articles about this matter it appears that “confidence” may be a way of saying that they are simply too comfortable living at home to move out.
Prof. Masahiro Yamada of Chuo University, the man who coined the term “parasite single,” told the Asahi Shimbun that the idea of the “comfortable family home” allows young people nowadays to avoid the reality of adult life and planning for the future. What these young people are afraid of is uncertainty, and so their entire view of life is inward. They do not attempt to extend their human network outside the home, and that includes looking for a lover or a spouse. Among single Japanese between the ages of 30 and 34, only 20 percent have boyfriends or girlfriends. These people are thus ready and willing to live with their parents until they die, though it isn’t clear if they will be able to take care of their parents when they get old and sick. Even though many of them work, they are not equipped for responsibility.
The government has been struggling with the problem of Japan’s low birthrate for 20 years now, and this development will only exacerbate the problem because the biggest reason people don’t have children is that they aren’t getting married. Japan still has the lowest out-of-wedlock birthrate in the world, less than 2 percent, owing to the officially sanctioned stigma of illegitimacy. Women who do marry have an average of 2.5 children, which is more than enough to replenish the population, but fewer and fewer are getting married.
I certainly see this firsthand with my good friend’s family. Two daughters now in their early 40’s and late 30’s still live at home in Tokyo. Both do no housework and depend on mother for cleaning, shopping, laundering, and cooking. Both women work and basically spend their money on clothing, makeup, and eating out with friends.