Fertility crash: Japan's births headed below 900,000 this year
Nikkei -- Oct 07
The number of babies born in Japan is declining even faster than expected, highlighting the need to support families in order to avert even greater strain on the nation's social safety net and economy.

Births during the January-July period fell 5.9% on the year to 518,590, the sharpest drop in 30 years, preliminary figures from the health ministry show. This marks the fourth straight yearly decline and a steeper fall than the 2% decrease for the first seven months of 2018.

Japan is on pace to slip below 900,000 births this year, after breaching the threshold of 1 million in 2016.

"This is because echo baby boomers are reaching the end of child-bearing age," said Takumi Fujinami at the Japan Research Institute. Those born between 1971 and 1974 will all be 45 years old or more this year.

The number of women of child-bearing age is declining rapidly. Data from October 2018 shows 9.07 million Japanese women in their 40s, compared with 6.96 million in their 30s and just 5.78 million in their 20s.

Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children born per woman -- declined in 2018 for the third straight year to 1.42. The government has sought to boost this figure by building day care centers and encouraging workers to take maternity and paternity leave, with little success.

The January-July figures include babies born to foreigners in Japan as well as Japanese babies born abroad. The government excludes these roughly 30,000 babies from the official count, which totaled 918,000 in 2018. The rate of decline suggests the tally for 2019 could fall short of 900,000, even if foreigners are included.

News source: Nikkei
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