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Economy

Japan sees record population drop amid declining births

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The annual number of newborns in Japan in 2017 dropped to 946,060, marking a new record low and below 1 million for the second consecutive year, a government survey showed Friday.

According to health ministry data, a natural decrease in the country's population came to 394,373, the largest margin of decline, with the number of births down by 30,918 from the previous year and the number of deaths climbing to a postwar high of 1,340,433.

A natural decrease is recorded as the number of deaths minus that of babies born.

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 has not yet produced results.

Thus, the government may need to come up with more effective measures to achieve its fertility rate target of 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025 and maintain the population at around 100 million in 2060.

The total 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.

"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, also pointed out that the current trend of declining births is expected to continue due to 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 aging and a shrinking population will continue."

The number of marriages also fell to a postwar low of 606,863, down by 13,668 from the previous year.

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