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During the last Upper House election three years ago, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set a target of restoring the nation’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime — to 1.8 by 2025, and the campaign platform for his Liberal Democratic Party said this target would be achieved by introducing a system that makes it easier for people to maintain their career while raising children. When he dissolved the Lower House for a snap general election in 2017, the prime minister termed the rapidly aging population with ever-falling number of children a “national crisis” and pledged greater support for people raising children, including free preschool education and nursery care for children.

In the campaign for the Upper House election this Sunday, any reference to the fertility rate is absent from the LDP’s platform. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the fertility rate, which had been in a gradual upward trend since hitting a low of 1.26 in 2005, inched down for the third straight year to 1.42 in 2018. The number of babies born last year hit a record low of some 918,000, and the natural decline of the population, or the number of newborns minus deaths, reached a record high of 444,000.

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