The number of pregnancies reported in 2020 reached a new low amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.
Municipalities across Japan recorded 872,227 pregnancies last year, down 4.8% from a year before, suggesting that the number of babies born in 2021 is likely to fall below the 800,000 line for the first time.
The data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry puts even more pressure on the government, which in addition to tackling a persistently low birth rate is also dealing with a rapidly aging population.
Soaring social security spending to cover pensions and medical care for older people weighs heavily on the world's third-largest economy's budget.
The annual number of newborns sank below 900,000 for the first time in 2019. The number is likely to further decline to below 850,000 in 2020, according to government sources.
The projected fall in births in 2021 is likely the result of the tough employment situation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and a reluctance for women to travel to their parents' home to give birth, as is tradition in Japan.
The ministry on Wednesday released the number of pregnancies reported in November and December and added it to the total already compiled for January to October.
There were 69,804 pregnancies reported in November, down 4.8% from the year before, and 75,755 in December, down 1.8%.
Every month except for March posted a year-on-year decline in the number of pregnancies in 2020, with the largest fall of 17.6% registered in May, two months after public concern over the spread of the pandemic heightened and organizers decided to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics by one year to the summer of 2021.
The ministry said the number of pregnancies has continued to decline into 2021, with the number dropping 7.1% in January from the year before to 76,985.