Ageing and Longevity

Japan’s birth rate is declining - and fast. Could AI be the solution?

Hiromi Sato holds her son, Haruse, as her husband, Kenji Sato, holds a calligraphy with the characters of his son's name and the date he was born during a photo opportunity at their home in Minamisanriku, northeastern Japan, March 3, 2012. Hiromi gave birth to her son at the Ishinomaki Red Cross hospital on March 11, 2011, the same day when the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the northeastern coast of Japan. In a fortunate twist of fate, Kenji Sato, a wiry descendant of fishermen in his coastal hometown of Minamisanriku, took time off from work to see his third child, Haruse, born at a hospital in the nearby port city. A year on, the Satos, who all survived the tsunami since their house was built on a hill, are planning a quiet birthday with some cake and ice cream for the child who, his grandmother Kazuko insists, "was born to save us" Picture taken March 3, 2012.  REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN - Tags: DISASTER ANNIVERSARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - GM1E83611GX01

Japan's birth rate reached an all time low in 2019, with around 865,000 overall. Image: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

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  • The Japanese government is looking to develop an advanced AI matchmaking system to stem the country's falling birth rate.
  • The system takes into account age, income, hobbies and values before pairing up a potential match.
  • Japan's birthrate was down 5.8% in 2019, the lowest annual figure ever.
A wedding shop display is seen at an official hotel of the Rugby World Cup in Sapporo, Japan September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su - RC126502A060
The AI tool will hope to match people based on a number of values and hobbies. Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

The Japanese government plans to step up efforts to stem the country’s tumbling birth rate by helping to fund more sophisticated artificial intelligence matchmaking systems, media said on Monday.

The number of births in 2019 was down 5.8 percent to around 865,000, the lowest annual figure ever: a drop in the number of marriages and a rise in the age of marriage both played a part.

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In a country with a long history of human matchmakers, local governments have already moved on to AI matching systems to pair people up, but many only consider criteria such as income and age and only produce results if there is an exact match.

The latest envisaged central government funding will allow access to systems which pair people with a potential partner even if those income or age wishes do not match, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

A number of Japanese prefectures have already introduced such systems, which take hobbies and values into account and produce a wider range of results, but they can be costly.

Saitama, just north of Tokyo, spent 15 million yen ($144,000) in the fiscal year to March 2019 but saw some 21 couples head to the altar. Government data shows the number of marriages fell by 200,000 in Japan from 2000 to last year.

The national government will guarantee roughly 60 percent of the cost of the more elaborate AI systems, out of 2 billion yen it is requesting to fight the falling birthrate in next year’s fiscal budget, the Yomiuri added.

A Cabinet Office official confirmed the figure, but added: “We’re just disbursing money to fight the falling birth rate, it’s up to the local governments how to spend it.”

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Ageing and LongevityArtificial Intelligence
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