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Japan: Number of births likely to be sub-million for first time

Japan's fertility rate was 1.45 in 2015, up 0.03 points from a year earlier, but remains well below the government's target of 1.8. Photograph:( AFP )

Tokyo, Japan Dec 22, 2016, 10.33 AM (IST)

Less than a million children will be born this year in Japan, the government said on Thursday.

This will be the least ever since the government started keeping a count on the number of births in 1899.

The continuing slide in birth data underscores a fast-aging society and the high cost of child care.

Another reason is the declining numbers of women who are in the prime of their childbearing years.

Japan's fertility rate was 1.45 in 2015, up 0.03 points from a year earlier, helped by an economic recovery, and is recovering from the record low of 1.26 hit in 2005. However, it is still far from the government's goal of 1.80.

Japan is an aging society as 33 per cent of its population is above the age of 60 and a quarter of the population is above 65.

The Japanese government is pulling out all stops to reverse the demographic trend, with the cabinet Thursday approving a record $830 billion spending budget for fiscal 2017, which includes child-rearing support.

Shrinking or aging population has several repercussions for the Japanese economy in the future as it would not only have to tackle diminishing workforce but also have to contend with a smaller consumer market.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)