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Japan sees steep population drop as pandemic keeps foreigners away

Entry restrictions slash foreign arrivals, leaving businesses short-handed

Japan's birth rate is expected to drop significantly this year, breaking 2019's record low. (Photo by Wataru Ito)

TOKYO -- Japan's population shrank by a record 420,000 people last year, government estimates show, as the coronavirus pandemic dealt a heavy blow to an influx of foreign workers that had helped offset the country's ongoing natural population decline.

The total fell for a 12th straight year, shattering the previous record of 329,000 set just a year earlier. The health ministry estimates Japan's population at 125.57 million as of Jan. 1, based on confirmed data through July and estimates based on births, deaths and foreign arrival and departure data.

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