Document 17: Shirō Kawata, "On Birth Control, Part II," published as "Ikuji seigen ni tsuite (ge)" Tokyo Asahi Shinbun, 12 March 1922, p. 6. Translated by Kazuhiro Oharazeki. For Part I, see Document 13.


   Many of the Japanese birth control advocates were labor activists and socialists working to improve the lives of the working class and concerned with lessening the disparities between rich and poor. In the second part of his two-part essay on birth control, Shirō Kawata acknowledged the problems of overpopulation and scant resources. In this article, Kawata briefly touches on the debate between moral restraint and access to birth control in combating uncontrolled population growth, before calling for more study on the problem of overpopulation in Japan.

[p. 6]


   In my perspective, the problem of overpopulation has its comparative dimensions. On the one hand, it can be measured in comparison to a nation's wealth. On the other hand, it can be measured in comparison to the scale of industrial developments and the prosperity of these industries. Suppose a country is wealthy, industries are prospering, and wealth is distributed equally among its people. Then, the presence of relatively large numbers of people will not cause a problem of overpopulation. Neither is any problem, which will threaten the society's existence, likely to occur.

   Therefore, in a country where there is not enough wealth and industries have not developed fully, the problem of overpopulation can emerge, even if the population density is not so high. If people have children without any restrictions under such conditions, they will inevitably sink into poverty. Poverty may be bearable if people are all equally poor. But, if wealth is distributed unequally, only the poor will suffer while the rich will not be affected much.

   In this circumstance, wages will inevitably decrease, and the working class will have difficulty making ends meet. Why? If large numbers of people share jobs that actually require fewer people, it means that wages are divided among many people. The wage for each person, then, will inevitably decline. I do not entirely agree with the wage-fund theory, but I think there is some validity in the idea that workers need to share a fixed amount of funds [available to employers]. Therefore, if the working population becomes large, wages will decline to the level at which people can afford only daily necessities. It will increase the number of unemployed persons and cause various problems.

   From a social policy perspective, therefore, one must admit the validity of the argument that population must be limited according to the conditions of economy. An increase in population will inevitably lead to a decline in its quality. The basic idea of Malthus is still valid. If there are more people than the economy can accommodate, society will face the problems of poverty, immorality, and a [high] death rate. Therefore, when we understand both the theory of Malthus and the idea of Mrs. Sanger and her collaborators, and view this problem not just as a population problem but also as a social problem, it will prove to be reasonable to advocate the need for population control and the need for birth control at the same time. As a means to control [population and births], moral restraint may be the most preferable, but if it is not effective, a scientific method, like the one proposed in Mrs. Sanger's movement, will be necessary.

   Don't you think that more research on this problem needs to be conducted given the conditions in our country today? I think it should be. If research can possibly contribute to the improvement of public health, social hygiene, and people's lives, one cannot dismiss it as immoral or anti-social. I hope that government leaders will have a broader perspective and provide people with more opportunities to study this problem.

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