Will the Japanese Sex Crisis Bring the World Economy to Its Knees?

If you thought the debt ceiling crisis was bad, brace yourself. Japanese 20-somethings aren't into sex! The economic implications could be dire far beyond the East Asian island. If that sounds utterly ridiculous, well, you might be right.

(Photo Credit: Gonmi/Flickr)

The Internet has exploded this week over a story in The Observer about the lack of love-making in Japan. It cites a 2011 survey which found 61 percent of men and 49 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship. Another study from last year found 45 percent of women 16 to 24 were "not interested in or despised sexual contact."

There are plenty of theories out there on why this is happening, but I'll leave that alone and focus on the economic implications. The Washington Post story on the subject — "Japan's Sexual Apathy Is Endangering the Global Economy" — warns us we might be in serious trouble if the Japanese abandon the baby-making business.

Japan already has an aging population (21.5 percent are over 65) and if current trends continue, about 40 percent of Japan's population will be over 65 by 2050. Without a large middle class workforce to pay taxes to help subsidize the elderly, Japan's economy, the third largest on the planet, is "an economic time bomb that will go off before long," according to The Washington Post.

But why should the rest of the world care? Japan is the most indebted country in the world (yes, more than Greece), with a public debt of over 200 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. Just to the United States, Japan currently owes $1.1 trillion. The Washington Post says, "Investors could one day look at the country's aging and shrinking tax base and decide that Japan's public debt might not actually be such a safe investment, triggering a loss of confidence and possible insolvency."

If it seems hard to believe some celibate Japanese Millennials are creating an economic armageddon by not sticking their keys in the ignition, you're not alone.

On Kotaku, Brian Ashcraft argues some of the data in The Observer piece is misleading and though Japan's aging population is a serious problem, it's a result of a number of factors, not just young people lacking sexual enthusiasim.

"This is incredibly complex and nuanced stuff -- and perhaps, not as interesting as reading about people screwing," Ashcroft writes. "Simply writing it off as, 'Oh, well, Japanese people don't have sex' seems to dehumanize an entire country. People have sex. It's what we do."

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