National

Japan’s child population shrinks to 15.53 million, setting another record low

Kyodo,JIJI

The number of children in Japan fell for the 37th consecutive year to yet another record low, signaling that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to combat the low birthrate are still wanting.

There were 15.53 million Japanese and other children in the nation as of April 1, down 170,000 from a year earlier and the least since comparable data became available in 1950, data released by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry showed Friday. A child is defined as anyone 14 years old or younger. The ratio of children to the overall population dipped to a record low of 12.3 percent, down for the 44th straight year.

Among 32 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan had the lowest ratio, outpacing Germany at 13.2 percent and South Korea at 13.1 percent, according to the United Nations Demographic Yearbook.

Abe pledged to rectify the nation’s shrinking and rapidly graying population by taking measures to empower women and beef up support for child-rearing by increasing day-care facilities, but his efforts have yet to bear fruit.

There were 7.95 million boys and 7.58 million girls as of April 1, the ministry said. The largest chunk was represented by children 12 to 14 at 3.26 million, followed by newborns to 2-year-olds, which accounted for 2.93 million.

Japan’s child population peaked at 29.89 million in 1954. After briefly picking up in the 1970s amid a second baby boom, the downward trend resumed in 1982.

Of the 47 prefectures, Tokyo was the only one that had more children than the previous year, according to prefectural data as of Oct. 1.

Okinawa had the highest ratio of children to the overall population at 17.1 percent, followed by Shiga, with 14.1 percent, and Saga, with 13.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the three lowest ratios were found in Akita (10.1 percent), Aomori (11 percent) and Hokkaido (11.1 percent).

Abe has been aiming to boost Japan’s total fertility rate to 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025 from 1.45 in 2015. This key indicator measures the average number of children each woman is likely to bear in her lifetime, under the assumption of age-specific birth rates.