The number of babies born in Japan in the January to June period dropped 2.7 percent from a year earlier to 496,391, pointing to the possibility of the annual figure slipping below the 1 million mark for the first time on record, government data showed Tuesday.

Although the number of births tends to be higher in the latter half of the year, the figure in the first six months was 13,980 fewer than last year's 510,371, the ministry of health said in a preliminary report.

The number of babies born in June was almost flat but the figure was about 2,000 to 3,000 less compared with a year before in each month between January and May, it said.

The number of deaths in the six-month period totaled 652,636, producing a natural decline of 156,245 in the nation's population.

After the second baby boom in the 1970s when more than 2 million babies were born annually, the figure decreased every year. It slipped below 1.5 million in 1984 and hit an all-time low of about 1.03 million last year, on the back of late marriages and childbirths.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration has set a goal of stabilizing Japan's population at around 100 million, 50 years from now. But the declining birthrate trend is likely to accelerate due to a fall in the number of women of childbearing age.

The data suggested an urgent need to create an environment that supports childbirth and child-rearing.