The government said Wednesday the number of births fell to a record low of 1,029,800 in 2013, causing the population to plunge at its fastest rate yet.
A health ministry survey found that the number of babies born last year decreased by 7,431, sinking to the lowest number since statistics started to be kept in 1899.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths surged to a postwar high of 1,268,432, exceeding that of births for the seventh straight year and resulting in a record 238,632 more deaths than births in 2013.
The ministry said the nation’s most common cause of death was cancer, which accounted for 28.8 percent of the total.
Meanwhile, the total fertility rate in 2013 edged up 0.02 point from the previous year to 1.43, according to the ministry. The fertility rate, which represents the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, dropped for those aged between 20 and 29 but rose among those aged between 30 and 49.
The overall fertility rate grew slightly, since many offspring of baby-boomers themselves gave birth. However, the number of women of child-bearing age is declining and therefore the number of births is expected to fall further, a ministry official said.
The rate in Fukushima Prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, rebounded a sharp 0.12 point to 1.53 in 2013, after falling 0.07 point to 1.41 in 2012.
In 2013, the number of births in the prefecture rose 776 to 14,546, nearing pre-nuclear crisis levels.
The overall number of marriages totaled 660,594, the fewest since the end of World War II, with the average age of newlyweds coming to 30.9 years for men and 29.3 for women, both up 0.1 year on year.
Due to a tendency to marry later, the average age of women giving birth to their first child came to a record high of 30.4 years, up 0.1 from 2012.