TOKYO, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- The estimated number of new births in Japan fell below 900,000 for the first time this year, the lowest since comparable data began some 120 years ago, government data showed on Tuesday.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, an estimated 864,000 babies were born this year, 54,000 fewer than the previous year, while deaths reached a postwar high of 1,376,000, with the largest-ever natural population decline of 512,000.
The declining speed is faster than projections by the government's National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, which had forecast 860,000 births in 2021. The number of new births in Japan, which fell below the one million barrier for the first time in 2016, is now falling two years faster than forecasts.
The data also showed that the number of newborns in Japan, which was 1,247,000 in 1989, has plunged by 30 percent over the past 30 years, with 2017 and 2018 each falling about 28,000 from the year before.
Some experts pointed out that rising unmarried rate is one of the main reasons for the sharp decline in the number of newborns in Japan.
In 1985, less than 5 percent of Japanese people had no experience of marriage by the age of 50. In 2015, the numbers of people still unmarried by age 50 hit a record 23.37 percent for men and 14.06 percent for women, according to a report released by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
Meanwhile, the country's average marriage age has continued to rise, standing at 31.1 for men and 29.4 for women in 2015, which is considered another cause of the decline in newborns.
The same government data showed the number of couples who married in 2019 dropped to a postwar low of 583,000, down 3,000, while the number of couples who divorced rose by about 2,000 to 210,000.
With the number of women of child-bearing age also declining, the number of new born babies is likely to decline further. As of July 1, there were 6.83 million women in their 30s and 5.77 million in their 20s.
The Japanese government has been taking steps to support child-rearing and employment for the younger generation. However, the latest data could prompt the government to further boost such policies.
According to government data released by the Internal Affairs Ministry this July, Japan's population has fallen for the 10th straight year to 124.8 million as of Jan. 1 this year. The population dropped 433,239 from a year earlier, the largest decline since the survey started in 1954.