Japan’s Fertility Crisis
It’s pretty common knowledge that Japan has a rather unique situation. For most of its history, Japan has been a closed nation.
Since the baby-boom at the end of WW2, the fertility rate (number of children women give birth to) has been slowly dropping to critical levels.
To sustain population levels, a fertility rate of around 2.1 is needed. This means on average, each woman needs to give to two children. This is why Japan’s current fertility rate of 1.39 is seen as a huge problem that will shrink the population in just a couple of generations. This then leads to a society where a small working population is burdened by a large elderly population.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen a chart that shows Japan’s declining birth rate. Have you ever wondered what happened in the year 1966, where the fertility rate dropped a whopping 25%?
The Culprit Behind the Drop in Fertility? Superstition
Much alike to western astrology, where the month we are born is supposed to affect our personality and luck, Japan and other Asian countries have the zodiac calendar. Each year has one of 12 zodiac animal assigned to it. For example, those born in 2018 are born in the year of the dog. If you were born in the year 2000, you would be associated with the dragon.
Not only does each year have an animal assigned to it, but each year also has one of five elements. This means that the full cycle repeats itself only once every 60 years.
1966, The Year of the Fire Horse
Those born in 1966, would be born under the zodiac animal horse and the element fire. This was considered to be a terrible year for women to be born on. Women born in the year of the fire horse were known as ‘Fire Horse Women’ and were said to be dangerous, headstrong, and bad luck for any husband. So strong was this belief back then, that many women even had abortions in an attempt to avoid having a ‘fire horse’ child. This might sound odd, but for much of Japan’s history, the role of women in society was to be a wife and a mother.
This is why we see such an unusual anomaly in Japan’s fertility rate in the year 1966. What can we expect to see in the year 2026, when the next generation of fire horses arrive?