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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

One generation has grown by ten years over the past 70 years!

Updated: May 18

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka


The anime version of the Japanese manga "Sazae-san" has characters Namihei 54 years old, Fune 52 years old, Masuo 28 years old, Sazae 24 years old, and Tarao 3 years old. This newspaper series began in 1946 in Japan. On the other hand, when my parents passed away one after another, I took a revised original family register (older family register). I discovered that my grandmother was 46 years old and my great-grandmother was 65 when I was born in 1954. I was surprised at how young they were. This age structure overlaps with the Isono family in “Sazae-san”. However, in 2018, when my first grandchild was born, I was 63 years old. Calculating from these, one generation in 1950 was about 20 years for the first child. In 2020, it will be about 30 years. In other words, one generation has been extended by 10 years. According to research by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan, the average age for women to give birth to their first child was 25.7 years old in 1976 and 30.7 years old in 2015. Overseas, the reported average age in the United States was 25.2 years in 2007; in the United Kingdom, it was 27.4 years in 2004; and in Australia, it was 30 years in 2006. Compared to the past, this value has increased in these countries. This seems to be because people get married later in life due to longer life expectancies and changes in social structure.


Average life longevity is the average life expectancy of a 0-year-old child. As of 2022, Japanese men will be 81.05 years old and women 87.09 years old. The average age for men and women is 84.3 years old, which ranks first globally. Increased life longevity is common in many countries and can be attributed to improvements in living standards and medical advances that have occurred over the past century. As a change in the social structure, the number of single-person households is increasing in many countries, and this is due to individualism and economic factors that make it possible to live alone. Furthermore, social support systems for child-rearing and old age have been developed mainly in Northern Europe. These changes have delayed life stages such as marriage and child-rearing, lengthening the length of one generation. This evolution of power relations within families and society will, in turn, impact the economy, society, and medical systems.


Several social and economic problems are expected as society ages, such as increased pressure on pensions and health systems. As younger generations decrease, the burden of caring for the elderly and providing social security will fall heavily on them. There is also the possibility that the labor force will decline and economic growth will slow. This limits the economic freedom of young people. Changes in family structure have led to nuclear families and fewer interactions between generations within the family. As a result, the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents becomes weaker, and the support system within the family changes. As more families have children as their parents and grandparents age, this will also affect their education and career choices. It is also possible that investments in children may change as parents become older. Addressing these issues requires a multifaceted approach, including efforts to extend healthy life longevity, policies to promote social participation of the elderly, and restructuring the welfare system with consideration for intergenerational balance. It is important to deepen our understanding of the form and function of families and consider support measures.


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