Population shrinks again despite increase in births

Kyodo News

Japan’s population shrank to 127,053,471 as of March 31, dropping by 1,554 for its second consecutive year-on-year decline, a government report released Thursday showed.

The government began tracking population growth in 1968.

The number of elderly, defined as those aged 65 or older, rose to 26,675,163, constituting a record-high 21.0 percent of the population, reflecting a sputtering birthrate and rapidly graying population. The elderly were 20.3 percent of the population last year.

Deaths deepened the population decline by hitting an all-time high of 1,081,174, up 8,893 from the previous year.

This blunted the surge in births, which actually rose for the first time in eight years to 1,091,917, adding 26,384 people between April 1, 2006, and last March 31. Births fell to a record low of 1,065,533 births last year.

The natural increase in population — births minus deaths — came to 10,743, achieving a turnaround from the natural decrease of 6,748 a year earlier.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry compiled the data based on resident registries of only Japanese citizens at municipal government offices across Japan.

The population of the three major urban regions centering on Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya reached 63,539,362, topping half the total population for the first time ever.

Of the total population, males numbered 62,129,560, or 48.9 percent, and females 64,923,911, or 51.1 percent.

By prefecture, Tokyo ranked first at 12,361,736, followed by Kanagawa at 8,741,025, Osaka at 8,665,105, Aichi at 7,145,614 and Saitama at 7,042,044.

Tottori had the smallest population, at 606,695, followed by Shimane at 739,080, Kochi at 792,419, Tokushima at 811,678 and Fukui at 818,443.

Eleven cities had a population of more than 1 million — Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Kawasaki, Saitama, Hiroshima and Sendai.