According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of babies born this year is estimated at just 921,000, 25,000 less than last year and well below the 1 million projection for the third year in a row.
In addition, the total number of deaths this year is estimated at 1.37 million, making the natural population decline about 448,000, the largest gap in the nation's recorded history.
With the population declining, it may not be possible for the government to reach its goal of increasing the fertility rate to 1.8 (the number of children who would be born per woman) by 2025. The fertility rate was 1.44 and 1.43 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to halt the population decline by increasing support for child care and education, Japan Times reported recently.
Beginning last year, the Japanese population is expected to decrease by approximately 30 percent until 2065, as the national demographic shifts to primarily older people, local media reported last year, citing the Health Ministry's research body, the National Institute of Population and Security Research.
The population in the small Asian nation will sink over the next half century, from over than 126 million in 2016 to an estimated 88 million in 2065, the Kyodo news agency reported last year.