National / Social Issues

Number of children in Japan declines for 35th straight year to hit record low

Kyodo

Manifesting a seemingly unstoppable decline in births, the number of children aged 14 or under fell for the 35th straight year to a record-low 16.05 million as of April 1, government estimates showed Wednesday.

The number was down 150,000 from a year earlier to the lowest level since comparable data became available in 1950. By gender, there are now 8.22 million boys and 7.82 million girls aged 14 or under.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released the data ahead of the Children’s Day national holiday on Thursday.

The ratio of children through age 14 to the overall population also slipped to a record-low 12.6 percent, down for the 42nd consecutive year.

Among 31 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan ranked lowest in terms of the ratio of children to the overall population, lower than Germany’s 13.1 percent, according to the United Nations Demographic Yearbook.

By age, children 12 to 14 comprised the largest group at 3.42 million, while the youngest group covering newborns to 2-year-olds was the smallest at 3.07 million, the ministry said.

According to prefectural data as of Oct. 1, only Tokyo had more children than a year earlier among the 47 prefectures. The figures for Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures were unchanged.

Okinawa had the highest ratio of children at 17.4 percent, while Akita Prefecture had the lowest at 10.6 percent.

In 1954 the number of children in the country reached 29.89 million, but the figure then gradually declined. Although the number briefly picked up in the 1970s due to the second baby boom, the downward trend resumed in 1982.