A total of 811,604 babies were born in Japan in 2021, a record low since 1899, as the nation’s demographic crisis intensifies, the government said in a report on Friday.
According the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the figure was down 29,231 from a year earlier, reports Xinhua news agency.
The latest data also showed that the number of couples getting married decreased in the recording period by 24,391 to 501,116, the fewest in the post-war era, the Ministry said.
In addition, it also said that according to the most recent figures, the number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime retreated 0.03 point from 2020 to 1.30 in 2021.
Japan is facing a demographic crisis, with its society rapidly shrinking due to factors such as the drastically declining birthrate and the falling number of people getting married.
At the same time, the number of senior citizens is growing, meaning a gradual yet persistent hollowing out of Japan’s workforce-aged people, with mounting social welfare costs to cater to the need of the growing number of senior citizens, which adds to economic and social pressures.
The government has taken measures to remedy the crisis, but to little effect.
Some state efforts have been made to increase the number of daycare centres, so that after maternity leave women can return to their jobs.
Other incentives have included allowing fathers to take paternity leave, so the burden of responsibility of raising the child in its first days and months don’t fall solely on the women.
In theory, the mother could return to work while her husband continues with his paternity leave, but the move has yet to gain traction in patriarchal Japan, anthropologists said.