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The cautionary tale of Japan's "sex recession"

Japan's cautionary tale of excessive celibacy

Tokyo — All around the world, young people are having less sex than previous generations. At the forefront of the so-called global "sex recession" is Japan, which has one of the lowest fertility rates on Earth, and it could serve as a cautionary tale for the U.S. and other industrialized countries.

Shota Suzuki works as a building custodian in Tokyo. After work, he likes to hang out in an area known for anime and manga with his friends. But at 28, Suzuki has never had a romantic relationship, and he's pessimistic that he ever will.

 "Yes, I'm a virgin," he told CBS News. "I would like to get married, but I can't find a partner."

Suzuki is far from a rare case. It's not difficult to find other young adults, like 27-year-old Kakeru Nakamura, who are surprisingly candid about their sexual inexperience.

"My parents want me to hurry up and get married," he said. "I tell them I'm too busy."

A review of Japan's National Fertility Survey reveals virginity is on the rise; one out of every 10 Japanese men in their 30s is still a virgin. That puts Japan's virginity rate well ahead of that of other industrialized nations.

"A large proportion of these individuals cannot find a partner in the market," Peter Ueda, a public health researcher at Tokyo University, told CBS News. He's sounding the alarm about Japan's surging virginity rate, which he notes is, "actually the highest ever recorded in a high-income country."

For Japan, already well into an unprecedented population decline, the sex drought is more bad news. If current trends hold, Japan's population will collapse by more than half over the next century.

The drop in both sex and births is often blamed are long working hours, too much time spent online, and the Japanese fetish for digital companionship, which manifests itself in the popularity of robots and holographic "partners."

But Ueda said he suspects financial and job insecurity are what's really fueling Japan's sex recession.

"Compared to men who had a regular employment, those with part-time or temporary employment were four-times as likely to be heterosexually inexperienced in ages 25 to 39, and those who were unemployed were eight times more likely," he told CBS News.

Shota Suzuki has a regular job, but said he still feels disadvantaged in the mating marketplace.

"I don't make enough money to get married, only enough to support myself," he said. "My friends are in the same boat."

Researchers have already warned that this problem isn't unique to Japan, and the U.S. could be next. 

The issue was also explored in the CBSN Originals documentary "Replacing Humans: Robots Among Us." You can watch it in the video player below:

Replacing Humans | Robots Among Us
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