Expert Predicts Japan’s Number of Births will Fall below 800,000 in 2021

There is growing concern that the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate the decline in Japan’s birthrate, with preliminary figures for the number of births in 2020 hitting a record low, and some predicting that it will decline further in 2021, perhaps falling below 800,000.

According to a survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of pregnancy notifications received by local governments nationwide between January and October 2020 decreased by 5.1% compared to the same period last year. The effects of the pandemic are believed to be behind this, leading to the view that the number of births in 2021 will drop significantly.

There is a fear that the impact will be prolonged. In Japan, the number of marriages, which are strongly linked to childbirth, fell by 12.7% in 2020 compared to the previous year, the first significant drop in 70 years since 1950, after the marriage boom immediately after the end of World War II.

The reason behind this decline is said to be the spread of teleworking due to the coronavirus disaster and a decrease in the number of people going out, resulting in fewer opportunities to find partners, as well as uncertainty about the future due to the worsening employment environment. Wedding ceremonies were canceled or postponed, and it is believed that there have been cases where marriages themselves have been postponed.

Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, said, “The decline in marriages will eventually accelerate the decline in the birthrate,” and predicted that the number of births in 2021 will be 769,000, falling below 800,000 just two years after falling below 900,000 in 2019.

Kumano said that the government should review its measures to counter the declining birthrate, including not only supporting child-rearing but also enhancing financial support so that young people who want to get married can do so.