The number of newborns in Japan hit a record low of 918,397 in 2018, staying below the 1 million mark for the third year in a row, a government survey showed Friday.

The rapidly aging country posted the largest margin of decrease in its population at 444,085 since comparable data became available in 1899, with the number of births falling 27,668 from the previous year and the number of deaths rising 22,085 to 1,362,482, according to the health ministry.

The total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime — fell 0.01 point to 1.42, clouding prospects for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to achieve its goal of increasing the rate to 1.8 by March 2026.