TOKYO, May 26, 2005 ( – Japan’s birthrate continues to fall, with a record low of 1.28 in 2004, according to a report released Wednesday. The birthrate, which has been falling for decades, now ranks among the lowest in the world. It dropped 0.01 points from the previous low of 1.29 in 2003, making it the lowest recorded number of births in a year since records began there in 1899.

The country’s population will begin its decline next year, dropping from its current 128 million to 126 million by 2015, and to 101 million by 2050, bringing with it catastrophic effects. Most fear the economic repercussions.

“A nation requires a certain scale in the population to continue its momentum, but in Japan, we are confronting a serious combination of a low birthrate and an aging nation,” said deputy director of Japan’s Education Ministry Kota Murase, according to a Washington Post report in March. “Our pension system is already being tested to its limits. And with fewer young people in society, the question is: How are we going to sustain the elderly and the nation’s future? We don’t have a clear answer yet.”

The falling birthrate threatens to leave Japan with a labor shortage in decades to come and will eat away at the country’s tax base. It is also putting pressure on Japan’s national pension fund. Demographers blame the late age of marrying and reluctance by women to forego careers and marry at all as primary reasons for the decline.

In 2004, 1,107,000 babies were born – a drop of 17,000 from 2003 statistics, and the fourth straight drop annually.

See related coverage:
Japan Facing Population Crisis with Baby Shortage



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