The number of babies born in Japan fell to a record low last year, the health ministry said on Friday, as more couples put off marriage and starting a family amid a global pandemic.
The number of births fell to 840,832 in 2020, down 2.8% from a year earlier and the lowest since records began in 1899, the ministry said.
The number of registered marriages in Japan fell 12.3% last year to 525,490, a post-war record, the ministry said. The country’s fertility rate, the expected number of births per woman, declined to 1.34, among the lowest in the world.
Japan has been struggling with a looming demographic crisis for years, with its birth rate continually declining – raising concerns of the aging population and shrinking workforce.
It is a “super-aged” nation, meaning more than 20% of its population is older than 65. The country’s total population stood at 124 million in 2018 – but by 2065 it is expected to have dropped to about 88 million.
Neighboring South Korea has also struggled with low birth rates for years; in 2020, it reported more deaths than births for the first time – a marker known as the “population death cross,” meaning the total population has shrunk.
And in China, the world’s most populous country, the number of newborns registered dropped almost 15% last year. The government last week announced it would further ease its strict family planning policy by allowing couples to have up to three children to combat the slide.