Population probably shrank even more in 2009, ministry estimates

Kyodo News

Japan’s population probably shrank further in 2009 as births fell by roughly 22,000 to about 1,069,000, the health ministry said in estimates released Thursday.

Births fell after rising slightly in 2008 — a leap year.

Deaths meanwhile were estimated to have risen for a ninth consecutive year, climbing by roughly 2,000 from last year to hit 1,144,000 — the highest since comparable data were compiled in 1947, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Thus the natural population decrease, calculated by deducting deaths from births, is estimated to have reached 75,000 in 2009, about 1.46 times higher than in 2008.

“The trend of increasing population decline is expected to continue in the future as the number of deaths rises due to the aging of the population, while the number of women at childbearing age is decreasing,” a ministry official said.

Births are expected to come to the second-lowest level since 1947. The lowest number was set in 2005, when only 1,062,530 Japanese babies were born, the ministry said.

Although the national fertility rate — the number of children a woman would have if she followed the birthrate of each generation in a given year — rose for three consecutive years until 2008, past data suggest the rate in 2009 was around 1.37 — the same as 2008.