Births in Japan hit record low

Births in Japan hit record low

Fewest marriages in 90 years suggest population decline could speed up

Children eat lunch with a nurse at the Futaba Baby Home in Tokyo.  (Photo: Reuters)
Children eat lunch with a nurse at the Futaba Baby Home in Tokyo. (Photo: Reuters)

TOKYO - The number of babies born in Japan fell for an eighth consecutive year to a record low in 2023, preliminary government data showed on Tuesday, underscoring the daunting task the country faces in trying to stem depopulation.

The number of births fell 5.1% from a year earlier to 758,631, while the number of marriages declined 5.9% to 489,281 — the first time in 90 years the number was below 500,000 — foreshadowing a further decline in the population as out-of-wedlock births are rare in Japan.

Asked about the latest figures, a senior government spokesperson said the government would take “unprecedented steps” to cope with the declining birthrate, such as expanding childcare and promoting wage hikes for younger workers.

“The declining birthrate is in a critical situation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters. “The next six years or so until 2030, when the number of young people will rapidly decline, will be the last chance to reverse the trend.”

Mindful of the potential social and economic impact, and the strains on public finances, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called the trend the “gravest crisis our country faces”, and unveiled a range of steps to support child-bearing households late last year.

Japan’s population, currently around 125 million, is projected to decline by about 30% to 87 million by 2070, with four out of every 10 people aged 65 or older, according to estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

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