|Japan's Divorce Rate Hits All Time High
Divorce Rate Hits All-Time High in Japan
Gary Schaeffer (AP)
(AP) - Japan's divorce rate rose to a record high last year, reflecting an increasing number of middle-aged and older couples who are parting ways. The number of divorces rose for a 12th straight year in 2002, according to recently released government statistics that provided the latest confirmation that the stigma long associated with breaking up is fading in Japan. According to the nation's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, a record 289,836 couples divorced last year, up 1.4 percent from the previous all-time high of 285,911 in 2001. That amounted to 2.3 divorces for every 1,000 people in Japan, also a record and more than double the rate of 1.07 in 1975. Behind the rise is an increasing number of couples who are parting ways after having been married for 20 years or more: They accounted for 15.7 percent of divorces in 2002, up from just 5.7 percent in 1975. Divorce was long seen as a social taboo in harmony-conscious Japan. A popular term for a person who has been divorced once - ``batsu ichi'' - translates to ``strike one.'' But that shame is slowly becoming a thing of the past, a trend attributed to changing values, including a growing rejection by women of sacrifices they were once expected to make in Japan's male-dominated society. ``Women in this country used to feel like they should put up with anything for the sake of their marriages,'' Yoriko Madoka, a national lawmaker who runs a divorce hotline, said on Wednesday. ``That kind of thinking has changed.'' Still, divorce remains a risky economic proposition for many Japanese women because of a lack of workplace opportunities, Madoka said. One trend given prominent media coverage in Japan involves older women who leave their husbands after the men retire and hang around the house all day. The generation of Japanese men now reaching retirement age typically spent most of their working lives apart from their wives, putting in long hours on the job or drinking with company colleagues.