AN MP from Japan’s governing party has drawn accusations of sexism after he said women should have multiple children and warned those who preferred to remain single that they would become a burden on the state later in life.
Kanji Kato, a member of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic party, told a party faction meeting that when he is asked to give speeches at wedding receptions, he encourages the bride and groom to produce “at least three children”.
When he encounters young women who say they do not intend to marry, Kato, who has six children and eight grandchildren, said: “I tell them that if they don’t get married then they won’t be able to have children, and that they’ll end up in a care home paid for with the taxes of other people’s children.”
His comments, reported by TBS News, come days after official data showed the number of children in Japan fell to its lowest on record.
As of 1 April 2018 there were 15.53 million children aged under 15, a fall of 170,000 from the previous year, according to the internal affairs ministry.
Last year about 941,000 children were born in Japan, the lowest number since records began in 1899.
The country’s birthrate remains stubbornly low despite the introduction of financial and other incentives to encourage couples to have bigger families.
Among 32 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan ranks lowest in terms of the percentage of children in the overall population, at 12.3%, according to the UN demographic yearbook.
Kato, 72, is not the first Japanese politician to suggest that women should regard producing offspring as their primary role in life.
In 2007 the then health minister, Hakuo Yanagisawa, described women as “birth-giving machines” and said it was their public duty to increase the birthrate.
Kato, a former vice minister at the agriculture ministry, initially said he stood by his remarks after female MPs branded them sexist. His office later issued a statement in which he retracted the comments and said he had “not intended to disrespect women”. (The Guardian)