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What will we witness when we seriously try to boost fertility? (第25回日本家族社会学会大会 2015-09 報告申込中)

What will we witness when we seriously try to boost fertility?: Normative constraints against universal child benefits

出生力増大に本気で取り組んだら何が起きるのか?: 普遍的児童給付の規範的制約

TANAKA Sigeto (田中 重人)
Tohoku University

Abstract prepared for a presentation in the 25th Annual Meeting, Japan Society of Family Sociology (2015-09-05..06 Otemon Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan)

(Below is a draft before submission, as by 2015-06-04. See for the final version.)


Many contemporary societies suffer from low fertility due to two factors: the desired number of children has declined and converged at a low level between 2 and 3 [1: 201-207]; and most people cannot have the desired number of children [2: 12-19]. If we take these as a serious problem and try to raise fertility up to the replacement level, what amount of resources should we mobilize? And what will be obstacles against such policies? This paper discusses these issues focusing on economic aspects of work-life balance (WLB) and universal child benefit (UCB) policies in Japan.

Model and analysis on WLB/UCB effects

I construct a model on people's expectations about their future equivalent income (the household income divided by the square root of the number of the household members). Suppose an unmarried person earns an income s without any family responsibility. He or she expects life in a household consisting of x children and m adults with an expected equivalent income y (x) = s(wm+bx) / sqrt(m+x), where w denotes income per adult (indicating the effect of WLB and other adults' contribution) while b denotes child benefit per child. Both w and b are measured by s. Here we assume m = 2 to focus on households with a couple and children.

Analyses of the function y (x) show limited effect of WLB. Even under the fully achieved WLB (w =1), the equivalent income y (x) exceeds s only where x =1, if b=0. If the rate of UCB (b) is small, y (x) goes down as x increases, no matter how large w is. In addition, w cannot be so large under the current condition in Japan that a majority of young unmarried women do not want to pursue a career continuing full-time work [3: 62, 162]. WLB policies are thus not promising for raising fertility.

In contrast, UCB improves the equivalent income of parents. High rate UCB (b > 0.54) lets y (x) exceed s and increase monotonously, under a small effect of WLB (w =0.6). The result would be enough for policymakers to believe in the effectiveness of UCB as a fertility booster.

Discussion on normative constraints and a probable future society

High rate UCB is, however, controversial in contemporary Japan, because it violates some fundamental normative beliefs: reproductive egalitarianism [4], and the primary responsibility of parents to maintain their child [5]. It is in a contrast with the conservative nature of the WLB policies, which can coexist with those beliefs. There can be development of high rate UCB if we overcome the normative constraints and constitute a new family system - under which most parents come from a specific subpopulation of the society, have a large number of children, and take no (or only secondary) economic responsibility of maintaining their children.

(See for details)


  1. 池周一郎, 2009,『夫婦出生力の低下と拡散仮説: 有配偶完結出生力低下の反応拡散モデル』古今書院.
  2. Suzuki Toru, 2013, Low fertility and population aging in Japan and Eastern Asia, Springer.
  3. 国立社会保障・人口問題研究所, 2012,『第14回出生動向基本調査 第II報告書』.
  4. Ochiai Emiko, 1997, The Japanese family system in transition, LTCB International Library Foundation.
  5. 渡辺洋三, 1975,「現代家族法理論」福島正夫編『家族 政策と法 1』東京大学出版会, 187-215.


ideology, family policy, Japan

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