Tokyo’s government plays matchmaker with new dating app to reverse its plunging birth rate

The birth rate in Japan is so low that its biggest city’s government is going to desperate measures to help couples find love.

The Tokyo metropolitan government’s latest out-of-the-box idea is to play Cupid by launching a dating app, and it has already allocated $1.28 million to debut it by the end of the summer, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported. Unlike other dating services, the government-sponsored project has strict measures in place to address a serious concern for people searching for love online: authenticity.

More than half of dating-app users said they had experienced someone misrepresenting their marital status or other parts of their profile, according to a 2021 study by Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., the outlet reported. In the U.S., Pew Research Center found that 63% of men under 50 said they had encountered a scammer on a dating app, while 44% of women across age groups said the same.

To avoid those pitfalls, the new government-sponsored app will force users to comply with thorough, even arguably onerous requirements, before they sign up. To start swiping right, users will have to verify their income, submit a government document to prove they are single, and sit for an interview with the company running the app. All of the information will be available to potential matches. The new platform is also not for casual daters; users will have to sign a statement declaring that they are looking for a partner to marry.

While it may not scream romance, Tokyo officials say the extensive prerequisites are necessary to avoid some of the problems users have faced with fake profiles on other apps.

“We hope that this app, with its association with the government, will provide a sense of security and encourage those who have been hesitant to use traditional apps to take the first step in their search for a partner,” a Tokyo official told The Asahi Shimbun

Other dating apps exist in Japan, including U.S.-based platforms Tinder and Bumble, but Tokyo’s government hopes that its strict rules and disclosures can convince people who were hesitant about apps to give love a try. Although it may seem far-fetched, dating apps are popular in Japan and they often match couples up for marriage quickly. A 2023 study of just over 1,000 people by Japan’s biggest life insurance company found that a quarter of respondents  who married within a year met their spouse on a dating app. 

Japan’s birth rate fell to a record low of 1.20 in 2023, according to figures released Wednesday by Japan’s health ministry. A birth rate of 2.1 per woman is required to maintain a broadly stable population, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In Tokyo, the birth rate was even worse, falling to 0.99 for the first time Wednesday. The 86,347 children born in Tokyo in 2023 marked the lowest number of births since the end of World War II, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

Needless to say, Tokyo’s government is willing to try anything to bring love back.

“If there are many individuals interested in marriage but unable to find a partner; we want to provide support,” the Tokyo official told The Asahi Shimbun.