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The pervasive sense of crisis in Japan over the falling birth rate and aging society issues is generating an active public debate about gender, the family, the organization of the workplace and the policy approaches best able to cope with these problems. This article considers explanations for demographic change, then turns to current Japanese family policy, focusing on the contradiction between formal laws and policies which aim at supporting families and informal practices which make domestic responsibilities more burdensome. It attempts to provide insight into these policies by focusing on the policy process, identifying characteristic patterns and approaches, strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese political system.
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