Japanese lawmaker Kanji Kato is in the hot seat for suggesting that Japanese women who don’t have children are a burden to society. “I tell them that if they don’t get married then they won’t be able to have children and that they’ll end up in a care home paid for with the taxes of other people’s children,” the 72-year-old said at a party meeting, per Newsweek. Kato is not the first to make this kind of observation. Former health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa in 2007 suggested that women were “birth-giving machines” who have a responsibility to have children, according to the Guardian. Kato’s comments touched a nerve in Japan where birthrates have been declining for decades. Currently, only 12.3% of the population is under age 15, down 170,000 from last year.
"This is exactly sexual harassment," said one female lawmaker. Amid similar criticism, Kato retracted the statement and said he did not intend to disrespect women, reports the Japan Times. Among 32 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan came in dead last for the percentage of children in the overall population, a UN study found. There may be several things playing into the low birth rate. Although women have been criticized for choosing careers over children, some say that Japan’s birth rate may be caused by a lack of good jobs for young men, who are postponing marriage until they can afford a family. In Japan, men are traditionally expected to be the breadwinner. Others say the problem is simpler. The Independent reports that nearly a third of young adults in Japan enter their 30s without any sexual experience. (Read more Japan stories.)