TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of babies born in Japan fell to a record low of 840,832 in 2020, a year when the nation was hit by the global coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Friday.
The figure marked the lowest level since the health ministry started taking such surveys in 1899. It was down 24,407 from the previous year, when the number dipped below 900,000 for the first time.
The data revealed that the rapid aging trend of the nation's population is accelerating amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 figures showed that the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime declined by 0.02 points from 2019 to 1.34, and the number of marriages decreased by 73,517 to 525,490, the lowest in the post-World War II era, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Analysts predict the impact of the pandemic on child births will become more severe in 2021, with the number of newborns from January to March this year dropping 9.2% from a year earlier, based on preliminary figures.
For the whole of 2021, the number may fall to around 700,000 births, 10 years earlier than the government had projected.
The number of births has been on a downward trend since the peak for second-generation baby boomers in Japan of about 2.09 million in 1973.
By age of mothers, births were highest among women aged between 30 and 34, at 303,434, with the average age of bearing a first child standing at 30.7 years old.
The number of births fell among all age groups except for those aged 45 and older, with the figure rising 27 in that group in 2020 from the previous year.
By prefecture, Okinawa logged the highest rate, with the average number of children per woman over their lifetime at 1.86, followed by Shimane at 1.69 and Miyazaki at 1.68.
Tokyo registered the lowest rate at 1.13, followed by Hokkaido and Miyagi at 1.21.
The average age of first marriages stood at 31.0 for men and 29.4 for women.
The number of divorces came to 193,251, down 15,245 from the previous year, according to the data.