Birth rates in Japan have hit a record low as the government tries to fight a losing battle to increase the country's population.
According to new figures released by the Japanese health ministry, the birth figures have hit a record low with slightly over 1 million babies being born in 2014. This is the lowest figure on record.
In 2014, 1,001,000 babies were born in Japan, a drop of 9000 when compared to 2013. This is the fourth fall in successive years. Additionally, the ministry also estimates that 1,269,000 people passed away in 2014, which also led to a demographic decline of 268,000.
"There will likely continue to be a trend of declining birth numbers and increasing death numbers," said a health ministry official.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research based its findings on survey as well as the census report which is conducted by the government every five years. The Institute estimates that by 2040, Japan's population - which peaked in 2010 (128 million) - will be dwindling at 107.2 million, which is 20 million lower than the current level.
Worse still, come 2050, the population of Japan could hit 97 million, which is a drop of 30 million from now.
The shrinking population is of great concern as it could affect the GDP of the country. Several factors have contributed to the depopulation in Japan. These include the increasing costs related with raising children and childbirth. With an increased number of single people, the drop in the number of marriages has also contributed to the demographics.
In 2014, the number of couples getting hitched was 649,000, which has seen a drop of 12,000 from 2013. The number of divorced couples stood at 222,000, which also saw a drop of 9000.
Factors like more women in the workforces and a later age of marriage are also said to have contributed to the population decline. Also, with more and more women delaying marriage, a health ministry official cites that "the number of reproductive-age women is on the decline." This too has been a contributing factor.
To counter the issues, the Japanese government is looking to bring about reforms that will fuel a baby boom in the country. The government intends to increase the number of births by a woman to 2.1 from 1.4.