Tokyo to launch first government-run dating app to try and halt plunging birth rate

The government in Japan's capital will launch a dating app in an effort to promote marriage and boost the falling national birth rate.

The fee-based app by the Tokyo Metropolitan government will be launched as early as this summer, officials announced on Tuesday.

Users will have to undergo a thorough registration process which will require them to submit documentation to prove they are legally single and sign a letter confirming their willingness to get married.

The app will also require users to provide a tax certificate slip to prove their annual salary. Each user would be made to enter 15 items of personal information, including height, educational background and occupation following a mandatory interview with the app's operator.

Government-initiated dating apps are rare but the city administration has reportedly allocated 200m yen (£1m) in its fiscal budget in 2023 and 300m yen (£1.5m) for fiscal 2024 to promote marriages through apps and other projects.

“If there are many individuals interested in marriage but unable to find a partner, we want to provide support,” a Tokyo official was quoted by The Asahi Shimbun as saying.

“We hope that this app, with its association with the government, will provide a sense of security and encourage those who have been hesitant to use traditional apps to take the first step in their search for a partner.”

Another official told AFP news agency that the app would provide a "gentle push" for the nearly "70 per cent of people who want to get married" but weren't "actively joining events or apps to look for a partner".

The move comes as births fell for the eighth consecutive year to 758,631, a drop of 5.1 per cent in Japan, according to the government. In 2023, Japan recorded more than twice as many deaths as new babies.

Japan’s top government spokesperson had said the government would take “unprecedented steps” to cope with the declining birthrate, such as expanding childcare and promoting wage hikes for younger workers.

“The declining birthrate is in a critical situation,” chief cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters. “The next six years or so until 2030, when the number of young people will rapidly decline, will be the last chance to reverse the trend.”

Tokyo’s unmarried rates for 50-year-old people were highest in Japan at 32 per cent for men and 24 per cent for women.

Earlier surveys found a large number of dating app users reported misrepresentation of marital status and false profiles which necessitated the thorough scrutiny of the new app's users.

About 90,000 babies were born in Tokyo in 2022 – a 15.2 per cent drop from a decade earlier. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike attributed the decline in births to a low marriage rate.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida has called the drop in birth rates the “gravest crisis our country faces”, and unveiled a range of steps to support child-bearing households late last year.

Mr Kishida said that urgent steps must be taken to tackle Japan’s declining birth rate and stated that it was “now or never” for one of the world’s oldest societies.

Japan’s population will likely decline by about 30 per cent to 87 million by 2070, with four out of every 10 people aged 65 or older, according to estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.