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People aged 65 or older now make up 15.43 percent of Japan’s total population, topping the 15 percentage mark for the first time, the Home Affairs Ministry said August 6.

The figures indicate that the pace at which the Japanese population is graying is accelerating, officials said. A demographic survey released by the ministry also showed that the total population of the nation as of March 31 was 125,257,061, an increase of 342,688 over the previous year. The female population in fiscal 1996 was 63,764,157, slightly more than the male population of 61,492,904.

The annual rate of increase in total population for fiscal 1996, which ended March 31, 1997, was 0.27 percent over the previous fiscal year — the first annual increase in five years, the survey said. People aged 65 or older totaled 19,333,231, an increase of 3.85 percent over the previous year, the survey showed. In the period from April 1, 1996, to March 31, 1997, a total of 1,208,578 people were born, it said.

The number of people younger than 15 fell 1.46 percent to 19,425,387, representing 15.51 percent of the total population, according to the survey. People aged between 15 and 64 dipped 0.1 percent to 86,498,427.

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