Japan is expected to have produced 941,000 babies in 2017, the lowest since surveys began in 1899 and about 36,000 less than the previous year, government data showed Friday.

According to statistics released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of babies born this year is likely to slip below 1 million for the second consecutive year.

Births peaked in 1949 at about 2.70 million.

Recent population trends continued as estimated deaths for 2017 stood at 1.34 million, the highest in the postwar era and up some 36,000 from the previous year.

The natural decline in the population was estimated at 403,000, the highest ever and up by about 72,000 from the previous year.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to resolve the dual challenges of the country's aging population and declining birth rate by increasing support for child care and education, while his government has set a goal of raising the total fertility rate to 1.8 by around 2025.

The number of marriages in 2017 dropped to 607,000, the lowest in the postwar era and down 14,000 from the previous year.

On average, one baby was born every 34 seconds, while one person died every 23 seconds. A couple got married every 52 seconds.