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Officials desperately want more women to work to boost the country's stagnant economy.
Challenging traditional gender roles can be an extremely unpopular move in Japan, where many people still support the idea that a woman's place is at home.Many of them "strongly believe that encouraging women to work reduces the birth rate, and leads to more divorce," said Machiko Osawa, a labor economist at Japan Women's University, who has long championed women's rights."That is one of the reasons why many politicians are reluctant to promote women working outside [the home]." Some experts argue, though, that a more equal share of bread-winning and housework duties between the sexes will mean happier men and women -- and therefore, more babies. Both rank among the top 20 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap index and boast fertility rates far higher than that of Japan, which ranks 101st out of 145 countries on the index.Setsuya Fukuda, a demographer at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, points to the Netherlands and the U. But as Japanese officials can attest, getting people to couple up is no easy matter.
Nearly all local governments in the country are trying to play matchmaker these days.Fukui, a prefecture on the western coast, has hosted an online dating service since 2010, making it a pioneer in government-supported romance.The prefecture of Hiroshima has managed some degree of success: 15 couples who met through dating events that started last year have since married, and one baby arrived this summer.Pictures of the successful couples are plastered on brochures in Hiroshima as a reminder to singletons to hurry up.