Japan's child population hits new record low, posing serious demographic challenge

Japan's child population hits new record low, posing serious demographic challenge

Japan's child population fell for the 43rd consecutive year, hitting a new record low as the rapidly graying nation continues to face a significant demographic challenge, government data showed Saturday.

As of April 1, 2024, the number of children aged 14 or younger, including foreign residents, stood at an estimated 14.01 million, down 330,000 from a year earlier, according to figures released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The child population ratio against Japan's total population also dropped 0.2 percentage point to 11.3 percent, the lowest level since comparable data became available in 1950. It marked the 50th straight year of decline.

The persistent fall reflects Japan's chronically low birth rate, which hit a new record low of 1.26 in 2022. Fewer babies have been born each year, with just 2.35 million children aged 0 to 2, while the cohort aged 12 to 14 numbered 3.17 million.

By gender, there were 7.18 million boys compared to 6.83 million girls as of April 1.

Japan's child population peaked in 1954 amid the postwar baby boom at nearly 30 million. A second smaller baby bump occurred between 1971 and 1974 before the long-running decline set in from 1982 onward.

The shrinking number of children poses serious concerns for Japan's future workforce and highlights the urgency for government policies to arrest the birth rate decline and support child-rearing families.

The data underscores the demographic challenges facing Japan as it grapples with a rapidly aging population and low birth rates. Without policy measures to reverse the trend, the dwindling number of youths will exacerbate labor shortages and strain public finances in years to come.

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