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Japan drifts away from fertility goal as efforts fail to stick

Government pushes for more time off but office traditions scare potential mothers

Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman gives birth to -- fell for a third year in a row in 2018. (Photo by Wataru Ito)

TOKYO -- Japanese births fell to a new low in 2018 as attempts at work reform designed to accommodate working mothers failed to reverse the trend, highlighting the grave challenge facing one of the world's most rapidly aging countries.

The country had 918,397 births, down by 27,668 from 2017, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The total fell below 1 million for the third straight year and was roughly a third of the 1949 peak of 2.69 million births.

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