Social Policy and Childbearing Behavior in Japan since the 1960s: An Individual Level Perspective
preprintposted on 28.05.2021, 13:48 by Li MaLi Ma
Japan is the first country in Asia that underwent noticeable fertility decline. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Japan was around four or five before WWII. In 2003, it reached a low at 1.29, making Japan one of the lowest-low fertility countries in the world. Ever since the early 1990s, the Japanese government has initiated a series of pro-natalist policies in the hope of reversing the declining fertility trend. A lot of research has been done to try to assess the effect of social policies on fertility in Japan in the past two or three decades. However, most related research is based on period TFR as a measure of fertility. The TFR is a very crude fertility measure and does not depict women’s childbearing behaviors very closely. Linking up recent policy developments and the latest trends in TFR in Japan reveals nothing than a steadily declining trend. This study distinguishes itself by detecting the effects or non-effects of the pro-natalist policies in recent decades in Japan from a perspective of individual-level data. We investigate parity-specific effects of policies through proportional hazard regression. By observing the childbearing patterns of different sub-groups of women over time, especially differences before and after 1991, we can better identify whom the pro-natalist policies since the early 1990s may have influenced. The estimated results show that the pro-natalist policies since the early 1990s have almost no elevating effect on the second and third birth rates in Japan. But a possible positive impact of the policies on the first birth is discerned in that the first birth rates show a slight recuperation from 1991 onwards. We find that it is the halt of the declining trend of the first birth rates among childless women aged 15-30 that has contributed to this slight reversal.