the low birthrate, so (the government) needs to reinforce measures" to tackle the problem, Kuniko Inoguchi, 53, a former professor of international politics at Sophia University, said in an interview Wednesday. "If the birthrate keeps falling, we will not be able to support our aging society."

Japan's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime -- dropped to 1.29 in 2004, marking an all-time low for the fourth consecutive year, with the number of babies born in the year standing at 1.11 million.

The government spent 3.2 trillion yen in fiscal 2002 on child-rearing benefits and for the operation of day-care centers, which accounted for only 3.8 percent of the 83.6 trillion yen allocated in the budget for social security benefits, according to the Cabinet Office.

About 70 percent of that money was allocated to support for the elderly, including pension payments and health-care costs, the Cabinet Office said.