Japan’s population excluding resident foreigners declined to 124.8 million as of Jan. 1, falling by the biggest number since the current survey began in 1968, affected by record-low births, government data showed Wednesday.
With fewer than 1 million births in Japan for the third straight year in 2018, the population dropped a record 433,239 to 124,776,364 for the 10th straight year of decline, according to the data released by the internal affairs ministry.
The number of registered foreign residents, meanwhile, increased to 2,667,199, up 169,543 from a year earlier, with all 47 prefectures seeing a rise in the figure as companies are turning to people from overseas to deal with a severe labor shortage amid Japan’s rapidly graying population and declining birthrate.
The number of births of Japanese fell to 921,000 last year and deaths totaled 1,363,564 for the sixth consecutive year of increase, with deaths outnumbering births for the 12th straight year.
People aged 65 or older accounted for 28.06 percent, up 0.40 percentage point from a year earlier, of the entire population. The ratio of people aged between 15 and 64 who are regarded as working population accounted for 59.49 percent, down 0.28 point.
The population decreased in 42 prefectures, with Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido logging the biggest fall of 39,461. The only bright spots were Tokyo, which saw its population grow 73,205 to about 13.19 million, prefectures in the vicinity and the southern island prefecture of Okinawa.
Okinawa was also the sole prefecture where births outnumbered deaths in Japan.
While Japanese continue to flock to the Tokyo area, the country’s two other major metropolitan areas — Aichi Prefecture’s Nagoya area and the Kansai area including Osaka in western Japan — are struggling.
The three metropolitan areas saw the first decline in overall population in the latest data, totaling 64,520,799.
Urban areas were also popular among non-Japanese, with Tokyo leading other prefectures with a rise of 30,181 foreigners, followed by Aichi and Kanagawa.
The total population in Japan including resident foreigners dropped to 127,443,563, down 263,696 from a year earlier.
With no silver bullet to halt the declining trend in the population of Japanese, the country is bracing for an influx of foreigners as it has opened up its doors wider to foreign workers by launching a new visa system in April.
In the meantime, the Japanese government faces the need to help foreigners live in the country more comfortably, critics say.
According to a government survey covering 375 foreigners compiled in June, 90 percent said they need public support to improve their living conditions, with assistance in finding housing sought most.
Asked about specific needs in a multiple-choice question, 63.7 percent called for more rentable residences for foreigners and information on them, and 44.0 percent sought an increase in hospitals with services in English or their mother tongue, and information about them.