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Many of them "strongly believe that encouraging women to work reduces the birth rate, and leads to more divorce," said Machiko Osawa, a labor economist at Japan Women's University, who has long championed women's rights."That is one of the reasons why many politicians are reluctant to promote women working outside [the home]." Some experts argue, though, that a more equal share of bread-winning and housework duties between the sexes will mean happier men and women -- and therefore, more babies. Both rank among the top 20 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap index and boast fertility rates far higher than that of Japan, which ranks 101st out of 145 countries on the index.There are many speed dating events now in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.Requirement for each event vary with the organizer.Pictures of the successful couples are plastered on brochures in Hiroshima as a reminder to singletons to hurry up.Private businesses have also sprung up, such as a dating cram school in Ibaraki prefecture on the eastern coast, where Kyoko Ishiduka counsels singles on how to court each other."We'd like to go out for dinner first, and start our relationship little by little," said one man, on his way out the door with his new girlfriend. Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the place where 15 couples who met through dating events have since married. Speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process whose purpose is to encourage eligible singles to meet large numbers of new potential partners in a very short period of time.

At the end of the event participants submit to the organizers a list of who they would like to provide their contact information to.That's led to taxpayer-financed dating services in places like Ishioka, a town about an hour outside Tokyo."When you think about how to prevent a decreasing population, nothing starts without marriage," said Kazuhiko Suzuki, an Ishioka city official.Usually advance registration is required for speed dating events.Men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short "dates" usually lasting from three to eight minutes depending on the organization running the event.

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