The number of babies born in Japan and to Japanese expatriates in the January to June period fell 3.6% from a year earlier to 371,052, government data showed Tuesday.

The number of births in the six-month period suggests that the annual total in the country this year is likely to stay below 800,000, after the figure hit a new record low of 799,728 last year.

But the pace of decrease in births for the first half of 2023 slowed from 5% in the same period last year, the preliminary data by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed.