Japan 2023 Fertility Rate Hits Record Low of 1.20; Tokyo’s Rate Falls Below 1 for 1st Time

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in Tokyo

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japan’s total fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.20 in 2023 from 1.26 in 2022, down for the eighth straight year, the health ministry said Wednesday.

In Tokyo, the total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her lifetime, stood at 0.99, falling below 1 for the first time in the country.

The annual number of babies born in the country in 2023 fell by 43,482 to a record low of 727,277, also down for the eighth consecutive year, and the natural population decline, or the number of deaths minus that of births, came to a record 848,659, highlighting the continued decline in the country’s birthrate and population.

The situation reflects a “complex mix of various factors, such as economic instability and difficulties in balancing work and child-rearing,” a ministry official said, adding that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were also seen. “The declining birthrate is at a critical level,” the official noted.

By prefecture, the total fertility rate was highest in Okinawa at 1.60, followed by 1.49 each in Miyazaki and Nagasaki. The three lowest figures were 0..99 in Tokyo, 1.06 in Hokkaido and 1.07 in Miyagi.

The number of births has been on a decline since the country’s second baby boom in 1971-1974. The number briefly rose in 2015 but fell below 1 million in 2016, 900,000 in 2019 and 800,000 in 2022.

The trend toward later marriage and childbearing continues, with the average age of first marriage standing at 31.1 for men and 29.7 for women in 2023, unchanged from the previous year. The average age at which women gave birth to their first child was 31.0, up for the first time in two years.

The number of couples who got married in 2023 dropped by 30,213 to 474,717, while that of divorces grew 4,709 to 183,808.

The annual number of deaths rose by 6,886 to 1,575,936, including 38,080 deaths, or 2.4 pct of the total, among people infected with COVID-19.