02 nagi-cho
Japanese town paying couples to have babies (2018)
04:00 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The number of babies born in Japan fell to a record low last year, the health ministry said on Friday, as more couples put off marriage and starting a family amid a global pandemic.

The number of births fell to 840,832 in 2020, down 2.8% from a year earlier and the lowest since records began in 1899, the ministry said.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit birth rates around the world, including in the United States, despite early speculation that pandemic-related lockdowns may lead to a global baby boom.

The number of registered marriages in Japan fell 12.3% last year to 525,490, a post-war record, the ministry said. The country’s fertility rate, the expected number of births per woman, declined to 1.34, among the lowest in the world.

Japan has been struggling with a looming demographic crisis for years, with its birth rate continually declining – raising concerns of the aging population and shrinking workforce.

It is a “super-aged” nation, meaning more than 20% of its population is older than 65. The country’s total population stood at 124 million in 2018 – but by 2065 it is expected to have dropped to about 88 million.

Neighboring South Korea has also struggled with low birth rates for years; in 2020, it reported more deaths than births for the first time – a marker known as the “population death cross,” meaning the total population has shrunk.

And in China, the world’s most populous country, the number of newborns registered dropped almost 15% last year. The government last week announced it would further ease its strict family planning policy by allowing couples to have up to three children to combat the slide.