back to article Japan pours millions into AI-powered dating to get its people making babies again

The Japanese government is splashing ¥2bn ($19m, £14m) to fund digital dating services powered by AI technology in an attempt to boost the country’s flagging birth rate. “We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” an official said, according to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hummm... There are plenty of babies being made but abortion seems to be used as a method of birth control.

    It's a very messed up situation wrapped up in complex social mores.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's not abortions, abortion rate is below world average:

      Abortion rate at 12.3 per 1000 women is *below* world average of 15.24.

      More like they're not having sex.

      "A survey of Japanese people aged 18 to 34 found that almost 70 percent of unmarried men and 60 percent of unmarried women are not in a relationship."

      "Moreover, many of them have never got close and cuddly. Around 42 percent of the men and 44.2 percent of the women admitted they were virgins."

      "The government won’t be pleased that sexlessness is becoming as Japanese as sumo and sake. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has talked up boosting the birthrate through support for child care, but until the nation bones up on bedroom gymnastics there’ll be no medals to hand out."

      "Far from getting together and getting it on, the sexes are growing apart. There are now many more virgins than in 2010, when the last study was conducted and when only 36.2 percent of men and 38.7 percent of women said they had never had sex."

      1. Xalran

        Re: Sexless

        That's one part of the Japanese problem... The hardest part is cultural.

        Basically it's a tough choice for womens. If you marry ( or want to have kids... which culturaly you can't do without marrying ) you basically become a living appendage of your husband. So any woman that wants to keep her career going will stay single ( and virgin since it's the best way to avoid any 'unwanted problem' ).

        The Germans also have that problem to a lesser extend ( Kuche, Kinder, Kirke ). They partially solved it by importing Turks to take all the unwanted jobs and raise the number of children, hoping that the kids will become good little Germans.

        But the Japanese are so culturally racist that it won't work ( anybody not Japanese [ and Japanese looking ] is a Gaijin... just look at how they treat the Koreans they had to import to fill some holes.

        Add to that the system where male office workers are expected to do 12+ hours a day in offices and crash in the nearest place they can find during the week because they have a 3hour+ commute to get back home.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Sexless

          Also doesn't help that the Japanese have pixels instead of genitals

          1. Kane Silver badge

            Re: Sexless

            "Also doesn't help that the Japanese have pixels instead of genitals"

            One of the greatest derailments in forum thread history!


        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Sexless

          The part about a Japanese woman as a 'living appendage of [her] husband' - I disagree with that completely.

          But your comment about male office workers doing 12+ hours a day, coupled with VERY long commutes, is probably the BIGGEST part of the low birth rate problem. Men who are too busy working typically won't find wives. And, intelligently, women apparently aren't saying "I'll just be a single mom" and then have a kid anyway. After all, kids need TWO parents, not a single mom + [government] day care. Intelligent women know this, instinctively.

          Also keep in mind that annual living expense increases in Japan may be increasing at a rate4 that exceeds wage increases With less money to spend, you can't afford a larger house to have a LOT of kids in, nor pay for their education, coupled with always being at work or near the office [sleeping in one of those ultra-compact bunk-bed "hotels" most of the week] because you NEED THE MONEY to live on, and so on, such that you're rarely home. "The Salaryman" in other words. It's all too common in Japan, as I understand it.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Sexless

            Good summary that still seems strange. If there is a declining workforce and a reluctance to employ foreigners, wages should be increasing.

            Is it also a cultural thing to not ask for a raise, be content with what a big conglomerate pays and little interest in self-employment / entrepreneurship? (the latter would also explain long commute times if most jobs are in central locations)

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Sexless

              >If there is a declining workforce and a reluctance to employ foreigners, wages should be increasing.

              Or at least programs to encourage more people into the workforce, encourage women, better childcare , flexible hours - but Japan seems to have managed to avoid this Scandinavian economic trap.

            2. bombastic bob Silver badge

              Re: Sexless

              For grins, after posting I read the 'Salaryman' entry in Wikipedia. There are some interesting insights there, including (apparently) wage stagnation over the last couple of decades...

              When expenses go up, but wages are stagnant, the public at large gets *DEPRESSED* and doesn't see a happy future. This could ALSO be a major factor in low birth rate. If it goes on for long enough, it is perceived as "the new normal" whether it really is or NOT [even if this is an artificially created situation]. Then the other consequences (like low birth rate, overworking to keep your job) happen.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sexless

            And, intelligently, women apparently aren't saying "I'll just be a single mom" and then have a kid anyway. After all, kids need TWO parents, not a single mom + [government] day care. Intelligent women know this, instinctively.

            Such a shame the youngsters don't feel the same way in the UK !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sexless

        I venture you need to understand soaplands and mistress both of which are prevalent and accepted for the amount of sex that's going on in Japan.

        Not all abortions are done in hospitals so are the figures accurate?

    2. PassiveSmoking

      Yeah, do you know which group has consistently been top of the abortion statistics?

      Fundamentalist christians. Yeah, you know, the "pro-life" mob.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        realistically, it might be younger women at religious colleges where getting pregnant can get you expelled... so guess what happens?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > so guess what happens?

          Rampant(*) lesbianism ?

          * Rampant is the best kind of lesbianism .....

  2. Zarno

    I can't help but remember...

    I can't help but remember the episode of Futurama "I Dated a Robot".

    Japan could do it.

    Icon because of the "asset augmentation" that happened in Terminator 3...

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: I can't help but remember...

      Definitely should have gone with "Electro-Gonorrhea - The Noisy Killer"!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope the Japanese dating apps are better than the UK ones. I've used some of the UK ones and, well... *sigh*

    1. Dr. G. Freeman

      I know, I ended up with the Wife.

      (Joke in case she's reading this)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >I know, I ended up with the Wife.

        Just ctrl-Z

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          You can control why later...

      2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        And I ended up with your wife too

      3. David 132 Silver badge

        You should buy a copy of Wife Trader magazine... (an oldie but goodie, but the domain is probably considered NSFW, unless you work at Viz of course)

  4. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

    It's not dating, it's the society

    The problem is not a lack of dating or sex.

    I venture humans are naturally inclined/programmed to procreate. However, if you put them in a turbo-competitive society, and take all-things-social away (every man for himself), procreation gets chopped on the block of cost&benefit.

    Why would a woman even consider having children, if there is no societal support, and having children means end-of-career and total economic dependence on her bloke?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not dating, it's the society

      I venture humans are naturally inclined/programmed to procreate

      My daughter is a case in point. She's been desperate to have children since she was at school. She's had two and is thinking of a couple more.

    2. mr.K

      Re: It's not dating, it's the society

      I am not so sure humans are naturally programmed to procreate. There are strong culturally embedded drives to procreate, but naturally...I dunno. A strong sexual drive and a freakishly strong drive to take of our children results in procreation. But being the result of two natural drives are not the same as being a natural drives in itself.

      In early societies the difference would be nil since sex tend to lead to children. In a modern society it is a choice. However there will be a lag, because another driver for human behaviour is cultural and our wants and needs are inherited. I.e. we look to our parents to see what they have/had and tend to want the same thing. This will of course change a little by little and now fifty plus years after we got the choice we have gone from large lots of children, to three to four per woman, to two, to one, and now some choose not to. As I speak to this generation I get the feeling that more and more actually make a choice. While speaking to the last generation I find quite a few that says they had children because that is something one just did, i.e. not a real choice.

      Getting back on topic. If you want people to have more babies to avoid a collapse, and we are talking collapse here. You have to use two strategies.

      1. Change your society so that people want children in the first place.

      2. Change your society so that people can afford more children, if they choose.

      Neither are solved with a dating app (and I am pleased that my dictionary doesn't recognize that last word).

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: It's not dating, it's the society

        "Naturally programmed" is already a questionable metaphor that does a poor job of representing the complex and heterogeneous relations among biological drives, conditioning, unconscious impulses, and conscious choices, even without taking interpersonal and social interactions into account.

        Like many of the posts in response to this story, OP is just naive, reductive sociobiology, absurdly generalized. Its explanatory power is negligible.

      2. ian 22

        Re: It's not dating, it's the society

        The last time we came to a collapse was in the Black Death of the 14th(?) century when at least 33% of the population of Europe was carried off. The result was the enrichment of the remaining population. Not the worst possible outcome.

        As we approach a global population of it seems we will have a collapse due to overpopulation rather than under population.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: It's not dating, it's the society

      if you put them in a turbo-competitive society, and take all-things-social away (every man for himself), procreation gets chopped on the block of cost&benefit

      An interesting theory. What does it have to do with contemporary Japan?

    4. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      The cost of parenting

      FWIW the article doesn't draw any conclusions on _why_ the birth rate is low, just that it is, and Japan's answer to it is... AI dating. There are probably loads of reason why people aren't having children, not just in Japan, that all aligns to fewer babies.

      My wife and I are Xennials who don't want kids for various reasons.


      1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

        Re: The cost of parenting

        ... and I guess that this decision was not at all influenced by the hardship of finding a mate.

        Seriously, what the article describes is Japan giving the lamest possible answer ("Let's throw AI on this!") to the wrong question.

        People will always have sex. First and foremost it is too much fun, and secondly it is decoupled from the whole parenting thing.

        The question Japan should answer is "How can bring our people to raise more children?"

        If a dating app would be a viable answer, than the birth-rates worldwide should show a tinder-spike.

        Widely available contraception, i.e. the pill, made a dent in the birth-rates; I don't expect such from dating apps.

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    Alternative AI

    Maybe they could encourage use of another sort of AI to produce more babies.

    1. Sykowasp

      Re: Alternative AI

      Yes, yes, I like it. We could have vast baby farms run by AI machines that also raise the child through to adulthood via a form of virtual reality teaching / life experience.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        Re: Alternative AI

        That makes a lot more sense than the Matrix backstory.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Alternative AI

          "Hell if I know" makes a lot more sense than the Matrix backstory, and would have saved us some of the more tedious scenes in that tedious series.

          (Is this thread all a bunch of whoosh, or did everyone understand alain williams' joke but hijack the thread back to "computer AI" anyway? Just curious.)

      2. Fr. Ted Crilly Bronze badge

        Re: Alternative AI

        Yes yes, theres a ghost in the shell episode to explain...

      3. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: Alternative AI

        It'll be a Brave New world

        ----> the one with a copy of Huxley's superior work in it

  6. Filippo Silver badge

    It sounds like the economy only works if there is positive population growth? Surely it would be smarter, in the long run, to figure out an economical system that works at stable or slowly decreasing population? I don't believe that economical growth is necessarily bounded, but population growth within any given nation is definitely bounded.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Crazy talk. Next you’ll be saying the goal of an economy is to reach an equilibrium rather than infinite growth.

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        I can ... sort of understand the kind of thought that wants infinite economical growth. I don't *think* it's feasible with current constraints, but I'll admit I can't prove this. There is economic activity that doesn't involve consuming finite resources, after all.

        But you definitely, certainly, positively cannot have infinite *population* growth within any given nation.

        So, the people who want infinite economical growth really ought to figure out how to detach it from population growth.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Economy works fine with a stable population. Its the pension system that's screwed with flat growth.

      Pensions as set up in 40s and 50s are based on paying 10% of earnings for 40-45 years' earnings and then receive approx 65% of the highest earning years for 10-15 years. Even working 16-76 (60 Yr work ) and living to 86 (10 yr pension), you can pay 10% and get 60% of average (not highest). There is no maths that can make it work without increasing workforce combined with inflation to reduce the real value of future pensions paid.

      But we're stuck with it because it's political kryptonite

      1. Filippo Silver badge

        The pension system is a pretty big part of the economy, though, isn't it? If it failed in a really hard way, which it has to eventually if it relies on unbounded population growth, I think the consequences would quickly satisfy most criterions of "economy doesn't work".

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          In the case of the UK public sector pensions, it's a bit like a Ponzi scheme

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        There is no maths that can make it work without increasing workforce combined with inflation to reduce the real value of future pensions paid.

        Yes, and that's exacerbated by increasing lifespan (without a corresponding increase in the retirement age) and rising post-retirement medical costs.

        Really, what has to keep increasing is total productivity, not necessarily the size of the workforce, but that's no easier to achieve.

      3. ian 22

        In the United States, income growth has stagnated since the 1970s, while productivity has exploded. If income had grown at the same rate as productivity, there would be no pension problem. However, the benefits of increased productivity have gone to the 1%, leaving the enraged 99% to vote for Trump, and he is happy to destroy Social Security.

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    British Expertise

    As part of a UK-Japan trade deal, Britain could share it's secrets to being the only western European country in the EU’s worst 10, with three percent of births to a girl aged 10-19 (figures from 2017). Best of all, Boris Johnson can come over in his Boris Force One jet for a lecture tour - he has been so successful in procreating that he does not know how many children he has fathered

    1. Cynic_999

      Re: British Expertise

      Perhaps accompanies by Jacob Rees-Mogg?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: British Expertise

        >Jacob Rees-Mogg?

        The sex God himself?

        1. needmorehare
          Thumb Up

          He can write it, someone can translate it and then Nanny can teach it.


          1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Nanny knows best

  8. DXMage

    The Japanese are more racist than Chinese and that is saying something. If a racist country dies off is that really a bad thing?

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Which is weird because judging by their comics and cartoons they find western features very attractive

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        And tentacles ....

      2. AK565

        According to my college roommate from Tokyo, the ideal was Japanese features that showed western influence. Like 2/3 Japanese 1/3 western in appearance. But your point still stands.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just Japan

    A lot of people I know are single, and only a handful of the couples I know have kids.

    I don't know what the cause or solution is, but there you go...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would not really want an AI looking at my dating options, it would just confirm what I already know...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an older widower all I can say is that in general dating is a pain. If I break up again I just won't date. Not worth it.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's not just matching

    Several posters have stumbled on the answer, but each has one part of the puzzle.

    Japan's birthrate is low due to basically three major factors: long works hours without paid overtime, wages not keeping up with inflation and lack of job security.

    All of the things that were present and were taken for granted in 1970-1990s Japan until their Great Recession and are now gone.

    Without stability, who in their right mind has children?

    All other reasons basically revolve around those three issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not just matching

      Good point, but the counter-example is the developing world... in large swathes of that there's subsistence wages, little if no job security (or life security, or not-having-your-home-burned-by-rampaging-warlords security). And yet the birthrate there is much higher.

      Putting my Jonathan Swift hat on, here's a modest proposal - to boost Japan's birthrate, all we need to do is introduce cholera, disentery, crop failures, ethnoreligious violence and Oxfam to the country. Simple! They'd thank us!

      1. ian 22

        Re: It's not just matching

        Declining birth rates correlate strongly with education for women, but as correlation isn’t causation...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure I could help them out there, rent a nob could be my new company,,, just a thought.

  14. David Roberts

    Eventually self fixing

    If the ethnic Japanese continue in this way then the required replacements will eventually be provided by immigration from other cultures

    Either there will be a constant flow of young people who are willing to assimilate and not breed or the new young will not accept the conditions which are currently depressing the birth rate.

    Either way there will be genetic and cultural drift until the whole thing sorts itself out.

    Over population and over work to prop up a society which does not want to breed is eventually self limiting.

    Which makes me also wonder if ethnic Japanese who want a work life balance and to raise kids will emigrate to other societies which offer these options, thus making the situation even worse for Japan but possibly better for the diverse human race.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eventually self fixing

      My wife is from Korea, which inherited a lot of the worst aspects of Japanese culture while under occupation by Japan, but also with it's own home grown issues, is facing this same population decline. From her description of the education system, brutal hard work culture and societal constraints and stratospheric housing costs it's no surprise at all that either of these countries are in this position.

      We could have contributed to the population, but chose to never subject our children to that system, and there are thousands and thousands of similar cases. At least in Korea they do seem to be waking up to this and removing some of the ridiculous restrictions on their citizens living abroad and having dual citizenship and a foreign spouse, or foreign citizens coming in to work in various industries and marrying locally. But there is still a hard core of conservative people in Korea who cannot stand the thought of their race being polluted by foreign blood.

  15. rwill2

    But now this has changed with COVID-19 and remote working!

    Even in Japan like over here employees can work remotely so no more commuting or staying in those small crash hotels.

    Here they say it's 65% of people:

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