Births in Japan hit a historic low in 2017 since records began

TOKYO, June 2 — The number of Japanese children born in 2017 was the lowest level since records began in 1899, deepening a demographic crunch with implication for everything including a reduced food demand and agriculture.

Last year, 946,060 babies were born in Japan, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on June 1. The number of newborns fell by 30,918 from the previous year.

On the other hand, there was a record high of 1,340,433 deaths in 2017, the ministry’s data showed.

Overall population decline in 2017 was the highest on record at 394,373.

With the working-age population decreasing, Japan is grappling with a chronic labor shortage, and the low birth rate could weigh on future economic growth.

The country’s total fertility rate, which measures the number of children a woman is expected to have over a lifetime, was 1.43. That was compared with 1.96 in France or 1.82 for the U.S.

A big contributor to the low fertility rate is that women are marrying later, in order to avoid pressure to give up their careers.

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