The number of babies born in Japan in the January to June period dropped 2.7 per cent from a year earlier to 496,391, pointing to the possibility of the annual figure slipping below the 1 million mark for the first time on record, government data showed on Tuesday.
Although the number of births tends to be higher in the latter half of the year, the figure in the first six months was 13,980 fewer than last year’s 510,371, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said in a preliminary report.
The number of babies born in June was almost flat but the figure was about 2,000 to 3,000 less compared with a year before in each month between January and May, it said.
Japan’s birthrate is one of the world’s lowest at around 1.4 per cent. The nation’s population is expected to shrink by nearly 40 per cent by 2060 in the worst-case scenario.
Couples in the world’s five biggest developed economies – the United States, Japan, Germany, France and Britain – had 350,000 fewer babies in 2012 than in 2008, a drop of nearly 5 per cent.
The UN forecasts that women in those countries will have an average 1.7 children in their lifetimes. Demographers say the fertility rate needs to reach 2.1 just to replace deaths and keep populations constant.
The effects on economies, personal wealth and living standards are far reaching, with experts saying the low birth rate could halt economic growth, cause salaries to fall and put a drain on the economy as nations struggle to care for elderly populations.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press