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Number of children in Japan slides to new low

Number of children in Japan slides to new low

Japan, which designates every May 5 as Children's Day, has fewer children to celebrate the holiday for the 35th straight year, underscoring a demographic dilemma that could eventually wreak havoc on the country's economy.
A government report released this week said as of April 1 there were 17.14 million children under age 15, just 13 percent of the country's 127.6 million people _ which sets a record low for the 28th consecutive year.
In contrast, Japan's elderly population is swelling. The number of those over 65 years old has reached 22.5 percent and continues to climb.
The unprecedented changes to Japan's population _ fueled by low birthrates and one of the world's highest life expectancies _ are expected to strain government services and pension programs, as well as lead to labor shortages in the near future.
Japan now has the lowest percentage of children among 31 major countries, trailing Germany and Italy, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications report. Children make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population and 17 percent in neighboring South Korea.
Government efforts to boost the number of new babies have been unsuccessful thus far, and lawmakers have long been reluctant to relax the country's strict immigration laws.
As part of his recent economic stimulus measures, Prime Minister Taro Aso called for new financial support for child birth and an expansion of neonatal intensive care units.
Officials have also stepped up programs that encourage the elderly to stay active and working. The government is gradually extending the retirement age to 65 from 60, and is now pushing for a further extension to 70. Tokyo also introduced a new health insurance system last year to deal with ballooning medical costs for people 75 or older.
In a dozen years, the percentage of children is projected to drop to under 11 percent, while the proportion of those 65 and older is likely to rise to 29 percent, according to government estimates.
Japan's population posted its sharpest decline ever last year, falling by 51,000.


Updated : 2021-07-29 11:07 GMT+08:00