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Japan

Couples aren’t marrying, babies aren’t being born: Japan sees record population drop

The government now faces having to come up with more effective measures to achieve its fertility rate target by the end of 2025 and maintain the population at around 100 million in 2060

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 June, 2018, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 4:54pm

The number of babies born in Japan dropped to 946,060 last year, marking a new low for the country and the second consecutive year its birthrate has sunk below 1 million, the latest government data shows.

According to the health ministry, the country’s population declined a total of 394,373, with the number of births down by 30,918 from the previous year. The number of deaths climbed to a post-war high of 1,340,433.

The news comes amid a dramatic slowdown in marriages. The number of marriages also fell to a post-war low of 606,863, down by 13,668 from the previous year.

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The country’s total fertility rate – the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime – also fell 0.01 point to 1.43. The figure was much lower than the rate of 2.07 necessary for Japan to maintain its population, highlighting how measures to reverse the declining birth rate have not yet produced results.

The government now faces having to come up with more effective measures to achieve its fertility rate target of 1.8 by the end of 2025 and maintain the population at around 100 million in 2060.

Japan’s fertility rate has been hovering in the range of 1.4 since 2012 after hitting the lowest point of 1.26 in 2005. The rate fell below 2.00 in 1975, a large decline from 4.54 in 1947.

“Since the number of women in their 20s and 30s has been decreasing, it is difficult to raise the number of births right away,” an official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

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“It is necessary to improve support measures so that they would be able to bear children without anxiety,” the official said.

Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Chuo University, said the current trend of declining births is expected to continue because of the demographic fact that a small population of young people will lead to a decline in the number of marriages.

Yamada said policies, such as that of the country’s social security system, “should be developed on the premise that ageing and a shrinking population will continue”.