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What is the most fundamental challenge confronting Japan? It must be the policy steps addressing the declining number of births in this country. If the number of births in a group of animals keeps falling, that group will likely become extinct. The 5,000-year history of mankind since the invention of letters shows that without exception, no country or region that experienced medium- and long-term population decline has ever prospered.

Among the Group of Seven countries in 2016, France had the highest total fertility rate — the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime — at 1.96, followed by the United States and Britain at 1.80, Canada at 1.60, Germany at 1.50, Japan at 1.44 — which is 184th among the world’s 203 countries — and Italy at 1.35. Japan’s fertility rate is indeed quite low. Meanwhile, the fertility rate is 2.33 in India and 1.62 in China. Northern European countries have fairly high rates — Sweden at 1.85, Norway 1.72 and Denmark 1.71.

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