Tokyo doesn't have an official one-child policy like the one the Chinese government has tried to implement, but you'd never guess that by looking at the average family size here in the capital.
2008年，也就是日本厚生劳动省(Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare)最近一年发布数据的时候，东京的出生率是日本最低的，每个妇女平均只生1.09个孩子。
In 2008, the latest year for which data are available from the Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare, Tokyo had the nation's lowest birthrate, at 1.09 children per woman.
The high cost of living, long working hours and scarce day-care in the capital help explain why elementary schools in some central Tokyo neighborhoods are shuttered and awaiting redevelopment, their playgrounds quiet, with only the occasional passing waterfowl visible in their algae-slicked swimming pools.
Elsewhere in the world's second-largest economy, the situation is similarly worrying. The national birthrate in 2008 was 1.37 children per woman -- up from a record low of 1.26 in 2005, but still nowhere near what the country needs to replenish its population. If current trends continue, Japan's population will fall to 95 million by 2050, from about 127 million now.
And the good news about rising average life spans here is bad news for demographic planning, as few workers support more and more older folks.
Japan's average life expectancy at birth was the highest in the world in 2008, at 86.05 years for women and 79.29 years for men, government data show.
But the ratio of the dependent population -- the sum of the elderly and young population, divided by the working-age population -- was 55.2% in 2008, according to the Statistics Bureau. The proportion of elderly in the total population has remained above that of the younger age group since 1997.
Cash allowances for kids
去年8月，日本民主党(Democratic Party of Japan)上台，它承诺要把政府的注意力转向提振内需，同时推迟上调消费税的计划（目前为5%），尽管日本的公共债务规模越来越大。
The Democratic Party of Japan was swept into power last August on a platform that vowed to shift the government's focus to boosting domestic demand, while postponing a hike in the country's 5% consumption tax -- despite Japan's burgeoning public debt.
根据日本政府“儿童及育儿计划”所制定的目标，日本首相鸠山由纪夫(Yukio Hatoyama) 1月份承诺，将通过取消日托的等待名单、整合托儿所及幼儿园体系，进而努力增强托儿服务，并将增加课外托儿服务，作为创建一个整个社会分担家庭育儿重担的环境。
Under targets based on his governments' "Vision on Children and Child-Rearing," Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama vowed in January to "work to enhance the provision of childcare services by eliminating day-care waiting lists and integrating the kindergarten and nursery school systems, and will increase access to afterschool childcare services as part of our efforts to create an environment in which the burden on families raising children is shared by society as a whole."
The DPJ's plan includes paying cash allowances of more than $3,000 per child to families, with monthly payments for children under high school age to help defray child-rearing costs.
Japan's lower house of parliament passed the child allowance bill Tuesday, and it is widely expected to clear in the upper house -- where the DPJ holds a majority -- before the end of this month.
But some say the policy is aimed less at propping up the country's sagging birth rate and more at giving anemic consumption an immediate shot in the arm.
摩根大通(J.P. Morgan)驻日本首席日股策略师Hajime Kitano表示，我将育儿津贴看作是针对35岁人群的一种税收减免。
"I view child allowance as a tax break for people aged 35," said Hajime Kitano, chief Japanese equity strategist at J.P. Morgan in Japan.
Japanese people born in 1975 graduated from university and became full-fledged members of society in 1997 -- the year that Yamaichi Securities went under, he said. Yamaichi had been one of Japan's top four brokerages, and its failure is considered an iconic marker of the era known as the "lost decade."
In the late 1990s, "people started to talk of an employment ice age" for young people at that time, according to Kitano's research report, released Thursday. "It was on this 'lost generation' that the 'lost decade's' negative effects were strongest."
This lost generation, he said, is now reaching the 35-44 peak age range for consumption.
"Although child allowance appears on the surface to be about children, upon closer examination it seems more like assistance for this generation," Kitano said.
Many Japanese companies are taking no chances that the government's policies will arrest the fall in the nation's birth rate, and are actively seeking to expand their market share aboard.
Diversified baby-and-child-care-goods maker Pigeon Corp. /quotes/comstock/!7956 (JP:7956 3,375, -5.00, -0.15%) has had operations in China for over two decades, and last year it opened its second factory there.
麦理格证券(Macquarie Securities)分析师伯格哈特(Robert Burghart)在近期研究报告中写道，贝亲的奶瓶、奶嘴和清洁剂在国内婴幼儿护理产品市场的份额在70%到80%之间。更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
Pigeon's domestic market share in baby-care products is in the 70%-80% range for items such as baby bottles, nipples and detergent, Macquarie Securities' analyst Robert Burghart wrote in a recent report.
"The China market -- with about 20 million births annually -- has obvious appeal to Pigeon," he said.