Japan's population posts largest yearly decline since records kept

August 29, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japan’s downward demographic spiral has recorded its largest ever yearly decline since the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications started taking population statistics in 1968.

The number of Japanese citizens based on the resident registration system, which differentiates the ministry survey from other national population statistics, fell to 126,393,679 as of the end of March, down 266,004 from a year earlier, the ministry said Aug. 28.

It was the fourth consecutive year of decline.

By age bracket, the working age population, aged between 15 and 64, fell below the 80-million mark for the first time to 78.95 million, which accounted for a record low 62.47 percent of the total population. The working age population has been shrinking steadily since the ministry began tracking that particular demographic in 1994.

Those aged 65 or older accounted for 24.4 percent of the total--a record high.

The number of births in fiscal 2012, which ended in March, was 1,029,433, down 20,120 from a year earlier and the smallest ever. The same period saw 1,255,551 deaths, down 574 from the previous fiscal year but still the second largest since the ministry added those statistics to its survey in 1979.

In 2013, each elderly person was supported, on average, by 2.56 working-age individuals, a sharp fall from 3.56 in 2003.

These figures are testimony that the current trend in falling birthrates, aging population and depopulation is becoming more and more precipitous. The new data is likely to revitalize and bolster discussion on the growing burden of social security expenses and on the difficulties of securing the nation’s work force.

Households are also continuing to become smaller. The average number of individuals per household fell to a record low of 2.32, down 0.02 from a year earlier, whereas the total number of households grew to 54,594,744, the largest ever.

By prefecture, population gains were only recorded in eight of the nation's 47 jurisdictions: Tokyo, Okinawa, Aichi, Miyagi, Saitama, Fukuoka, Kanagawa and Shiga, most of them urbanized compared with the rest of the country.

The depopulation rate exceeded 1 percent in three prefectures: Akita (1.23 percent), Aomori (1.07 percent) and Fukushima (1.04 percent).

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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