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Japan’s fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — declined for the third year in a row in 2018 to 1.42, nearly 0.4 points lower than the government’s target of pushing it back up to 1.8, according to demographic statistics from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The number of newborns for the year fell to a record low of around 918,000. The small number of births accelerated the decline in Japan’s population, which fell by 444,000 in 2018.

Among the world’s major economies, the fertility rate in 2017 was 2.30 in India, 1.92 in France, 1.85 in Sweden, 1.79 in Britain, 1.77 in the United States, 1.76 in Russia, 1.63 in China, 1.57 in Germany and 1.50 in Canada — all surpassing Japan. Only Italy, at 1.34, is lower.

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