Japan’s birth rate declined for the seventh consecutive year in 2022 to a record low, the Health Ministry said on Friday, underscoring the sense of crisis gripping the country as the population shrinks and ages rapidly.
The fertility rate, or the average number of children born to a woman during her lifetime, was 1.25. That compares with the previous low of 1.26 recorded in 2005 and is well below the 2.07 rate considered necessary to maintain a stable population.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has made halting the country’s declining birth rate a top priority and his government, Despite high debt levels, it plans to spend 3.5 trillion yen ($25 billion) a year on child care and other measures to support parents.
“The youth population will start to decline dramatically in the 2030s. The time period until then is our last chance to reverse the trend of declining births,” he said this week while visiting a day care center.
The pandemic has exacerbated Japan’s demographic challenges, with fewer marriages in recent years contributing to fewer births and Covid-19 partly responsible for more deaths. The number of newborns in Japan fell 5% to 770,747 last year, a new low, while the number of deaths soared a further 9% to a record 1.57 million, the data showed. More than 47,000 deaths in Japan last year were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.