The estimated number of babies born in Japan this year dropped below 900,000 for the first time to the lowest level since comparable data became available 120 years ago, government data showed Tuesday.
The figure of newborns for the year is estimated at 864,000, down 54,000 from a year earlier, while deaths hit a postwar high of 1,376,000, with the largest-ever natural population decline of 512,000, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The continued falling birthrate and shrinking population in the country mean Japan may struggle to maintain the current national pension, medical and nursing care systems in the coming years.
The government has set a goal of raising the total fertility rate to 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025 and has been introducing measures for supporting child-rearing and employment of younger generations. The latest estimate may prompt the state to further boost such policies.
The total fertility rate -- a measure of the average number of children expected to be born per woman, adjusted for the age profile of the female population and age-specific fertility rates -- stood at 1.42 last year.
The same ministry data showed the number of couples who married in 2019 fell to a postwar low of 583,000, down 3,000, while the number of couples who divorced rose by about 2,000 to 210,000.
The number of babies born in Japan, which stood at 1,247,000 in 1989, has dropped by 30 percent over the 30 years, with 2018 falling about 28,000 from the year before.
With the number of childbearing-age women also declining, the number of babies is likely to decrease further. The number of women in their 30s as of July 1 stood at 6.83 million, and those in their 20s was at 5.77 million.
Japan's population first posted a net decline in 2005, with the number of deaths eclipsing that of births. While it recovered the following year, the trend of natural population decrease has continued for 13 consecutive years since 2007.