TOKYO, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Japan's population decreased by nearly one million people in the past five years, a census report released Friday indicated.
It was Japan's first population decline -- adjusted for overseas soldiers and the 1972 return of Okinawa to Japanese administration -- since 1920.
The nation's birthrate, at 1.4 children per woman, is significantly lower than the 2.1 children per woman required to sustain population growth in developed countries, so the report from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication's Statistics Bureau came as no surprise. It notes, though, that one-third of all Japanese citizens are 65 or older, and that demographic is expected to grow by 40 percent by 2050.
The current population of Japan is 127,110,000, or 947,000 fewer than five years ago. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has referred to keeping the figure above 100 million a priority, and called for improved child care and tax incentives. A U.N. report in 2015 predicted the population will fall below 100 million by the middle of the century. At the current pace, by 2100, Japan's population will likely be 34 percent smaller than today.
At issue is a future in which a country's working population decreases as the number of elderly people rises.
The U.N. report estimated 48 countries will see their populations decline by 2050, but none have the global power of Japan, a crucial trading partner of the United States and China and the world's third-largest economy.