TOKYO, June 1 (Xinhua) -- The annual number of babies born in Japan in 2017 dropped to a record low, the government said in a report Friday.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of newborns fell to a new record low of 946,060 last year, marking the second straight year the figure has come in below the 1 million mark.
The population declined by a record 394,373 in the recording year, with the number of births dropping 30,918 from the previous year and the number of deaths up more than 32,000 to a postwar high of 1,340,433, the ministry's data showed.
The nation's total fertility rate last year was 1.43, dropping 0.01 point from the previous year, with the figure representing the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime.
By prefecture, Okinawa had the highest fertility rate, at 1.94, compared to Tokyo, which had the lowest, at 1.21.
The government has been targeting a fertility rate of 1.8 by the end of fiscal 2025, with a rate of 2.07 needed for Japan to maintain its population.
According to the health ministry, the low birthrate in Japan is due to declining numbers of women of child-bearing age and the number of marriages dropping by 13,668 from the previous year, to a postwar low of 606,863.
Highlighting Japan's demographic woes, the number of children in Japan dropped by 170,000 from a year earlier to 15.53 million as of April 1, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in May.
According to the statistics bureau's data, the number of children aged 14 or under dropped for the 37th successive year, marking a new record low since record keeping began in 1950 and underscoring the shortcomings of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reverse the nation's lengthy low birthrate.
Abe has set about trying to combat the nation's dwindling birthrate by trying to facilitate child-rearing through upping the number of daycare facilities and through state-backed initiatives to support families with low incomes.
But the results have yet to make a quantifiable difference, as evidenced by the ratio of children to the population here dropping to a new record low of 12.3 percent and marking the 44th consecutive year of decline, according to the bureau.
The ratio of children to the overall population in Japan is the lowest among countries in the world with a population of 40 million or more, with the ministry's data showing that by age the number of newborn babies to 2-year-old children stood at just 2.93 million in the recording period.
In 2017, Japan's population fell for a seventh straight year to 126.70 million, with people aged over 64 comprising 27.7 percent of the total, according to the government's data.
Leading demographers have said that by 2050, Japan will have 23 percent fewer citizens, with current demographic trends here likely to continue to the end of the century.
At this point, Japan's population is slated to fall to 50 million, a mere 40 percent of its all time high, as the elderly here continue to live longer and the birthrate continues to decline.