With the working world becoming more competitive than ever, is it any wonder that we are pouring most of our energy into our jobs, while our relationships suffer? Thousands of years ago of course, love and procreation used to be viewed as the only method of survival, but now many people are drifting away from intimacy, believing a relationship could hold them back from the life or career they wish to have in the future. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to prioritising work over love but is single becoming the new married and what can we do?
Is it sensible to stay single?
When it comes to whether being single is a superior status to being married, attitudes across the world are changing but even in the UK many people believe being in a relationship could hold them back. A recent survey showed that 35 per cent of married and engaged women regularly remove their wedding or engagement rings at work, arguing that appearing to be single will help their career progression. A further third of those 1,712 people polled across the country admitted to taking their rings off when going to job interviews.
The problem is magnified in countries like Japan where the under-40s appear to be losing interest in relationships altogether, with a recent study showing that numbers of single people have reached a record high. Many aren't even dating and are rejecting intimacy, which has led rise to what the government has called 'celibacy syndrome'. The population of 126 million, which has been shrinking over the decade, is projected to drop by a further third by 2060.
The reasons for this are complex; Japanese women are rejecting relationships because they feel that there simply isn't room in life for passion as well as productivity in the workplace. After having children around 70% of Japanese women leave their jobs and the World Economic Forum consistently ranks Japan as one of the world's worst nations for gender equality at work.
The issue is compounded by the fact that Japanese men have become less career-driven and less solvent. Lifetime job security has waned and the men have become more reclusive, rapidly losing their assertiveness. Many now prefer virtual relationships rather than real ones and over a quarter of the male populace is effectively ignoring the opposite sex to pursue their interests in virtual girlfriends and technology.
What are the effects of 'celibacy syndrome'?
It will always be down to an individual as to whether they look for a long-term partner or stay single - but is it wise for this trend to continue in countries like Japan? I think the answer is fairly obvious and also very simple - no. We need to prevent the effects of 'celibacy syndrome' and we need to put a stop to it quickly.
Japan has an incredibly low birth rate with incontinence pants now outselling baby nappies. If the birth rate continues to plummet, they may become a nation where there are too many young people to support the older generation. And if fewer people are dating and believe that romance, relationships and reproduction are important; this could have far-reaching consequences across the globe
Relationships aren't just about having children and saving a nation; knowing that you are loved and wanted can improve quality of life drastically. There are countless surveys that have shown that living with someone or being married not only improves happiness and health but also brings more satisfaction than earning a big salary or believing in God.
What can we do?
There are a number of methods that can be utilised in order to prevent the spread of so-called 'celibacy syndrome' and to encourage romance and relationships. The first problem that should be tackled is the traditional view that is still upheld regarding women in the workplace and pregnancy. Women should not be made to feel that they must give up their jobs after having a child - they also shouldn't be prevented from progressing within a company just because they're married or want to have a family. We are living in modern times; working mums are common and governments around the world need to tackle this issue more effectively. In the UK while much has been done to redress the balance, a recent survey by Mumsnet showed that 60% of women still felt less employable after starting a family.
With so much technology around is it any surprise that we are finding it difficult to communicate with each other face to face? I think we need to spend more time educating the masses on communication and making them comfortable with the idea of speaking more to one another in person. Some people in Japan are becoming so repulsed by the idea of physical contact and sex that they refuse to speak to the opposite sex or acknowledge any form of physical relationship.
I believe that we should introduce the idea of love and romance to our children at a very young age so they will grow up with an understanding of the importance of love in the form of relationships. If the generations ahead become less inclined to love and instead focus on other aspects of their life they will miss out on so many emotions and experiences that only love can provide.
There are many reasons as to why we should give relationships and romance a chance; this isn't something that you can force onto society and influencing millions of people and their culture will take a long time. Having said that, in my opinion, this needs to happen because generations of people are missing out on love.
Brett Harding is the Co-founder of Lovestruck and believes a loving relationship is something that people should not be so eager to ignore in their pursuit of other lifestyle goals.