Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are known to have extremely low fertility rates that are lower than the level to reproduce their populations. In this study, we discuss how and why this happened, utilizing a comparative analysis among the three East Asian countries (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) and six Western countries (the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain). Different economic structures and social systems might explain why East Asian countries generally have lower fertility rates than their Western counterparts. We first attempt to show that even among the six Western countries and three nations in East Asia, the differences in social and economic circumstances have led to different trends in fertility rates in the past 30 years. We then argue that women’s welfare in all nine countries is the key factor to explain differences in fertility rates among these societies.


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