National

Japan's child population falls for 39th straight year

KYODO

The estimated child population in Japan has dropped for the 39th consecutive year to reach a record low despite efforts to tackle the long-standing decline in the birthrate, according to the latest government data.

The number of children age 14 or younger stood at 15.12 million as of April 1, down 200,000 from a year earlier and the lowest figure since officials began compiling comparable data in 1950, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said Monday.

The ratio of children to the overall population fell for the 46th straight year to a new low of 12.0 percent, below South Korea's 12.4 percent and the lowest among 32 countries with a population of 40 million or more, according to the U.N. Demographic Yearbook.

By contrast, people age 65 and over account for 28.6 percent of Japan's population, reflecting the graying of society.

The child population peaked at 29.89 million in 1954. The number briefly picked up in the early 1970s but has continued to fall since 1982.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to tackle the nation's declining and aging population by promoting women's empowerment in society and increasing the number of day care facilities, but his efforts have yet to bear fruit.

The government has set a goal of lifting the total fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman — to 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025, from 1.42 in 2018.

Those age between 12 and 14 comprised the largest group of children at 3.21 million, while newborns to 2-year-olds totaled 2.75 million. By gender, there were 7.74 million boys and 7.38 million girls, the ministry said.

Among the 47 prefectures, Tokyo was the only one that saw an increase in the number of children, with 1.55 million, more than 20 times that of Tottori, the prefecture with the lowest total. Tottori announced last Oct. 1 it had a child population of 70,000.

Okinawa had the highest ratio of children in its overall population at 16.9 percent, while Akita logged the lowest at 9.8 percent, the first time any prefecture has dropped below 10 percent since comparable data became available in 1970.

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