Japan experiences a record drop in births in the first half of 2022, to less than 400,000

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Japan reported that 384,942 babies were born between January and June 2022, down more than 20,000 from the same period last year, according to population statistics from the Ministry of Health.

Since 2000, less than 400,000 babies have been born in the first semester. The decline shows a 5% year-over-year decline.

“(The falling birth rate) has a significant impact on the whole society and economy,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told The Asahi Shimbun and other media on September 1.

Observers think it is likely that the number of newborns will hit an all-time high again this year.

In June, the ministry announced that the number of newborns in 2021 had fallen to 811,604, the lowest since 1899. The latest data shows the decline is only accelerating.

Kato added that the decline in births and the resulting increased burden on the working-age population to support the social security system is “one of the challenges that we should give the highest priority to.”

Among the reasons cited for the declining birth rate are the financial burdens on parents in raising children and supporting their education, difficulties in balancing work and child-rearing, and creating an environment in which people become more willing to marry.

“Various factors intertwined (to lead to this),” Kato said.

The ministry has implemented measures such as providing more childcare services, encouraging men to take parental leave and including infertility treatments in the medical services covered by the Health Insurance.

Observers say, however, that more measures are urgently needed with the decline in the working-age population.

As part of the measures to tackle the decline in the number of births, a group of experts responsible for advising the government on the construction of a “social security system oriented towards all generations” plans to identify the challenges to short, medium and long term and to prepare a timetable for the necessary reforms.

However, finding a solution is not easy, according to analysts. Expanding government support for children’s education requires additional funding, they added.

“It is important not to pass this problem on to the next generation and to approach it with a policy in which everyone should be supported (in the social security system) according to their abilities,” Kato said.

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