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Japan’s rapidly graying population and shrinking population is casting a shadow on Japan’s future. After hitting a low of 1.26 in 2005, the total fertility rate (TFR) has risen for three consecutive years and stood at 1.37 in 2008, a rise of 0.03 from 2007. Nonetheless, deaths still exceed births and the country’s population continues to decline. If the nation’s birthrate rises to slightly more than two children per woman on average, however, the population will stabilize.

The Democratic Party of Japan has made promises of generous assistance to households with children. It proposes offering a monthly ¥26,000 allowance (¥13,000 in fiscal 2010) per child through middle school and raising the child-birth allowance from ¥380,000 to ¥550,000. In addition the party says it will make public high schools virtually tuition-free, give ¥120,000 annually to students attending private high schools and offer education loans to university students if they want.

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