Married people in Japan are choosing work over sex

Too tired to try it.
Too tired to try it.
Image: Reuters/Thomas Peter
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Sex in the modern marriage can often get pushed to one side by the conflicting commitments of parenting, busy jobs and social arrangements. But in Japan, which is already tackling the problems associated with a low birth rate and an aging population, sex in marriage is getting ever scarcer.

A survey conducted by the Japan Family Planning Association found that over 47% of married men and women had not had sex for a month or more, the Guardian reports. That was a 2.6-percentage-point increase from the last survey in 2014, and much higher than the 31.9% recorded in the first such poll in 2004. (The association surveyed 3,000 people in late 2016, of whom 655 were married.)

The biggest passion-killer was work. Over 35% of men who responded said work left them “too tired” to have sex, up from just over 20% two years earlier. For women, the biggest reason to avoid lovemaking was that it was seen as a hassle—more than a fifth said it was too much like hard work. The highest rate of “sexless” marriages, as those in drought periods of over a month were called, were among people in their mid to late 40s.

There have been some very tentative signs over the past decade that a push to up Japan’s fertility rate—using everything from straightforward campaigning to robot babies—is working. But to fix its sex problem, Japan may have to tackle its work problem first. Karoshi, or death from overwork, is finally being recognized as a serious issue in a culture where, according to recent government research, workers at one fifth of companies are working more than 80 hours of overtime a month.