Japan's birth rate 'critical' as it hits record low

Various factors, such as economic instability and difficulties in juggling work and child-rearing can be blamed for the falling figures.

05 Jun 2024 08:30pm
Mothers and children play beside a cherry blossom tree at a park in Tokyo on March 28, 2023. - (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI / AFP)
Mothers and children play beside a cherry blossom tree at a park in Tokyo on March 28, 2023. - (Photo by YUICHI YAMAZAKI / AFP)
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TOKYO - Japan's health ministry described the nation's birth rate as "critical" on Wednesday as it hit a record low for the eighth straight year, with the government moving to improve support for parents.

The ministry released data showing that Japan's birth rate -- the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her life -- stood at 1.20 last year, well below the 2.1 children needed to maintain the population.

The figure was down from 1.26 in 2022 and was the eighth consecutive yearly decline in the country of 124 million people.

"The continuing decline in the birth rate is a critical situation," a health ministry official in charge of the data told AFP.

"Various factors, such as economic instability and difficulties in juggling work and child-rearing," can be blamed for the falling figures, she said.

Declining birth rates are a common trend in developed countries and Japan's rate is still above that of its neighbour South Korea, which has the world's lowest at 0.72.

However, with the world's oldest population after Monaco, Japan is scrambling for ways to encourage a baby boom to avert a looming demographic crisis.

Parliament approved on Wednesday revisions to laws to provide more financial support for parents, improved access to childcare services and expanded parental leave benefits.

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It was the latest government push to boost birth rates, an issue that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has highlighted as an urgent risk to Japanese society.

Among Japan's initiatives to boost the birth rate is a dating app developed by the Tokyo city government that will be launched as soon as this summer.

Users will be required to submit documentation proving they are legally single and to sign a letter stating they are willing to get married.

Stating one's income is common on Japanese dating apps, but Tokyo will require a tax certificate slip to prove an applicant's annual salary.

An interview will also be required to confirm a user's identity as part of the registration process for the app, which has been on a free test run since late last year. - AFP