TOKYO, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The number of newborns in Japan is shrinking faster than expected. The number of babies born in the country in the first seven months of this year fell 5.9 percent from the previous year, government data shows, with fewer than 900,000 babies expected this year.
According to preliminary figures from the health ministry published earlier this week, births during the January-July period fell 5.9 percent on the year to 518,590, the sharpest drop in 30 years, which marks the fourth straight yearly decline and a steeper fall than the 2 percent decrease for the first seven months of 2018.
The number of newborns is expected to drop below 900,000 in 2019. A lower birth rate than the government had hoped would overshadow social security and economic growth, highlighting the need to support families.
Japan's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research has previously estimated that the number of newborns in Japan will be 921, 000 in 2019 and below 900,000 in 2021. The institute did not forecast Japan's total to sink below 900,000 for another two years.
The number of babies born in Japan breached the threshold of 1 million in 2016 for the first time since the statistics began in 1899. If newborns slip below 900,000 in just three years, it would be a surprisingly rapid decline.
Some experts believe the decline in the number of women of child-bearing age is one of the main reasons that contributed to the fertility crash.
"This is because echo baby boomers are reaching the end of child-bearing age," said Takumi Fujinami at the Japan Research Institute. Those born between 1971 and 1974 will all be 45 years old or more this year.
The number of women of child-bearing age is declining rapidly in Japan. According to the population projections as of October 1 last year, there were 9.07 million Japanese women in their 40s, compared with 6.96 million in their 30s and just 5.78 million in their 20s.
By the year of 2020, one in two women in the country is expected to be in their 50s or older.
Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children born per woman -- declined in 2018 for the third straight year to 1.42.
According to some experts, if young people are not provided with an environment that encourages a decision to have a child, the decline in the number of births will be further accelerated, depressing Japan's potential economic growth rate.