/

Population of children sinks to yet another record low

Kyodo

The number of children in Japan has fallen to another record low, indicating that the efforts so far taken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been inadequate in reversing the nation’s declining birth rate.

According to the latest data, released Thursday, the number of children 14 or under as of April 1, including foreign people, had fallen to 15.71 million — down 170,000 from a year ago and the lowest since comparative data became available in 1950, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

That means the population of children has dropped for 36 consecutive years.

Abe, who took office in December 2012, pledged to address the birth rate problem by taking measures to promote women’s empowerment and bolster support for child-rearing.

The ratio of children to the overall population meanwhile slipped to a record-low 12.4 percent, down for the 43rd year straight. By gender, there were 8.05 million boys and 7.67 million girls.

Among 31 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan’s ratio was the lowest, according to the United Nations Demographic Yearbook. Germany’s ratio was 13.2 percent.

By age, those aged 12 to 14 comprised the largest chunk of children in Japan at 3.35 million. The youngest group, covering newborns to 2-year-olds, was the smallest at 2.94 million, the ministry said.

Among the 47 prefectures, only Tokyo recorded an increase in children from the year before, prefectural data as of Oct. 1 show.

In 1954, the number of children 14 or younger in Japan peaked at 29.89 million and declined from there. The number briefly picked up in the 1970s due to a second baby boom, but the downward trend resumed in 1982.

In 1997, the proportion of those 65 or older surpassed that of children 14 or younger for the first time.

Abe has been aiming to boost Japan’s total fertility rate to 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025 from 1.45 in 2015. This key indicator measures the average number of children each woman would bear in her lifetime, under the assumption of age-specific birth rates.

The government has promised to make sure the population will be above 100 million 50 years from now, but it is projected to sink to 88.1 million in 2065 after falling below 100 million in 2053, recent government data show.