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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 10:05 GMT
Japan women's singular contentment
Wedding dresses in a shop in Tokyo
The white dress is losing its appeal for many Japanese women
Seven out of 10 single Japanese women believe they can be perfectly happy remaining on their own, according to an opinion poll in the Yomiuri newspaper.

The number of women believing singledom can bring contentment has risen by 10% since 2003, the newspaper said.

Analysts say the results reflect the fact that staying single is no longer the social stigma it once was.

It also illustrates why Japan is facing a falling birth-rate, as many Japanese choose to marry later or not at all.

The birth-rate is now just 1.29 children per woman - among the lowest in the world - fuelling concerns that a shrinking work force will be unable to support the country's growing numbers of elderly.

A government white paper released in October warned that a shortage of children could create economic problems, higher social welfare costs and even psychological problems from young people.

Yomiuri's nationwide survey found that 73% of single female respondents and 67% of single males agreed that women could be completely happy living on their own.

But the numbers fell with age. Of those in their 20s, 74% of male and females asked said they believed women could be happy if they did not marry.

The rate dropped to 66% for respondents in their 30s, and 58% for those in their 40s.

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