In the middle of the worst recession in decades, Japan has asked its corporations to help with another societal problem, low birthrates. How will they do that? By cutting at least some of the usual 12-hour days people spend at work so they can go home and spend time with their families. All of this has one goal: to encourage more babies.
More Babies = A Stronger Economy
Yep, you read it right. The Japanese, the folks who gave us amazing technology, square watermelons, fully-equipped coffin-like hotel cubicles, bullet trains, samurai flicks and 54 years of Godzilla, have looked at their economic issues and have tied them to their social problems, one of which is low birthrates. True, there are other issues identified as having a problematic effect on Japan, but the Japanese birthrate is far below that necessary to replenish its rapidly aging population. The math works like this: The more stable your population, the better that is for your economy since you are literally raising new consumers, entrepreneurs, workers, product developers and all the other folks needed for a strong economy.
Now, sending folks home to “spend time” with their families may not be enough to overcome the problem—the high cost of living and certain cultural issues surrounding pregnancy and motherhood also contribute—but it is certainly a start and it is an interesting example of how the Japanese view their economic problems within a larger, long-term societal context that helps businesses as well. According to a recent CNN article:
Canon says its 5:30 p.m. lights-out program is one simple step toward helping address the population problem. It also has an added benefit: Amid the global economic downturn the company can slash overtime across the board twice a week.
And from the worker’s point of view:
"It's great that we can go home early and not feel ashamed," said employee Miwa Iwasaki.
Can That Work in America?
We don’t have to, at least not right now since we are at a 45-year high in fertility. There are cultural factors for that as well as a decline in contraceptive use, improvements in education and poverty and a drop in access to abortion. Whatever the reason, the birth rate in the United States is higher than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan. But the question posed by this difference is: If we work to lower our birthrate, would that help us or hurt us economically?
Nancy Pelosi has one answer. In her $825 billion economic stimulus plan, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, she is adding millions for family planning services such as contraception and abortion. In a interview on ABC’s This Week, she said:
Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
When asked by the host if she had any apologies for the stand she is taking, she answered:
No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.
So, while the Japanese see a high birthrate as a good thing, developing a next generation of economic participants, here in the US, a lowering of the American birthrate is one of the “consequences of the downturn in our economy.”
Is there something wrong with this picture? Since when are children a consequence of the economy? There is no future without them, a point that the Japanese have clearly grasped. So, what is it?
The Bottom Line
Since when would reducing the birthrate equate to raising prosperity? Look back in history and you will find few if any examples. Sure, there is the Black Death of the Middle Ages, but I am not sure even Nancy Pelosi would endorse killing one-third of the American population to help certain sectors of the economy. We can see a very European socialist mindset in all of this: Kids are a burden, global warming, spending is the way to prosperity, moves toward nationalization. They have all been tried before and all have failed. Doubts are even creeping into the dogma of climate change.
The bottom line is that the more we learn about this $825 billion spending plan—let’s not call it a stimulus plan any longer—the more we see that it is not about stimulating the economy, it is not about helping to create wealth by getting America back to work. No, like the New Deal, this bill is merely a funding measure for the social agenda of the Left.
Is that going to give you, your family and your business the future you want and deserve? What do you think?