Tokyo, June 5 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s natural population decline, or the number of deaths minus that of births, came to 515,864 in 2019, surpassing the 500,000 mark for the first time, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Friday.
The figure was up 71,794 from the preceding year. Japan saw the annual number of deaths topping that of births for the first time in 2005 and the natural population decline has been expanding since 2007.
The number of births fell 53,166 to 865,234, posting a record low for the fourth straight year. With the number of women aged 25-39 falling, the ministry expects that the number of births in the country will stay on a declining streak.
The number of deaths was up 18,628 at 1,381,098, the highest figure since the end of World War II in 1945.
The nation’s total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth to in her lifetime, slid 0.06 point to 1.36, down for the fourth straight year. It now appears to be more difficult to meet the government’s goal of raising the rate to 1.8 by fiscal 2025.
The decline “is believed to have resulted from a 3.4 pct fall in the number of marriages in 2018 to the lowest level since the war,” a ministry official said.
The total fertility rate fell for all five-year age groups. The rate was the highest for women in their early 30s, followed by those in their late 20s.
The average age of mothers when they had their first children was 30.7.
By prefecture, Okinawa posted the highest fertility rate, at 1.82, followed by Miyazaki, at 1.73, and Shimane, at 1.68.
Tokyo recorded the lowest rate, at 1.15, with Miyagi and Hokkaido coming in second and third lowest positions, at 1.23 and 1.24, respectively.
The number of couples who married in 2019 increased 12,484 to 598,965, rising for the first time in seven years. The ministry said the development seems to reflect the change of the Imperial era, from Heisei to Reiwa, upon Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement on May 1 last year, which motivated couples to tie the knot.
In May alone, 91,560 couples married, nearly twice the year-before figure of 45,588.
The average age of first marriage stood at 31.2 for men and 29.6 for women, marking respective record highs.