1 of 3 | Japan's birth rate fell below 800,000 for the first time since 1899, the government said Tuesday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Births in Japan fell to below 800,000 for the first time since 1899, according to government data released on Tuesday.
The total number of births was just 799,728, falling to a record low for the seventh consecutive year. The number of deaths rose to 1.58 million, Japan's health ministry said.
"We recognize that the falling birthrate is a critical situation," Yoshihiko Isozaki, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, said, in a news briefing. "My understanding is that various factors are intricately intertwined, preventing individuals from realizing their hopes for marriage, child birth and child rearing."
Japan has been grappling with a falling birth rate for years, however, the problem has accelerated from previous estimates. A 2017 government forecast predicted that births would not fall below 800,000 until 2023.
"The drop in births in 2022 is likely to have been impacted by the decline of marriages in 2020 due to the arrival of the pandemic, given how, in many cases, the first child is born two years after getting married," Takumi Fujinami, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, told Kyodo News.
"Women in particular are less willing to have children," Fujinami said. "Along with the economic and employment environment, the issue of the gender gap, which puts a heavy burden on women in areas like child-rearing, should be improved."
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government has allocated $35.2 billion to a new agency dedicated to children and their families.
However, the number of marriages did rise for the first time in three years, after previously dropping to their lowest levels since World War II.