Health and Healthcare Systems

Birth rates are shrinking in Japan - and it’s part of a worldwide trend

birth rates in Japan are declining

Birth rates in japan are declining. The Brookings Institute estimates that 300,000 babies were not born in the US as a result. Image: UNSPLASH/Omar Lopez

Kayleigh Bateman
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  • Birth rates in Japan are falling faster than expected.
  • The pandemic and economic uncertainty have caused a decline in birth rates globally.
  • 300,000 babies are estimated to have not been born in the US as a result of the pandemic.

Economic uncertainty, migration restrictions and couples choosing to have smaller families are having a knock-on effect in the form of a global population decline.

Indeed, the birthrate in Japan is shrinking at a faster pace than previously predicted, according to estimates from The Asahi Shimbun.

Using the health ministry’s calculation formula and preliminary birth figures, the Asian newspaper has calculated that in 2021, birth rates in Japan declined to around 805,000 - a figure not expected until 2028.

Last year, the Japanese government announced that the number of births fell to 840,832 in 2020, a dip of 2.8% from the year before and the lowest since records began in 1899.

“The number of marriages was also sluggish compared with pre-pandemic years,” Takumi Fujinami, a senior chief analyst at Japan Research Institute Ltd, told The Asahi Shimbun.

“The number of births will continue to fall in the longer term” if more young people do not or cannot get married, said Fujinami.

COVID-19 and declining global birth rates

Japan is not the only country experiencing a reduction in birth rates. In 2021, Taiwan, China, was found to have the lowest fertility rate in the world, with an estimated 1.07 children per woman.

At the beginning of the pandemic, jokes circulated that lockdowns would cause a baby boom, but global economic insecurity had the opposite effect on birth rates. The Brookings Institute estimates that 300,000 babies were not born in the US as a result.

Furthermore, in 2020 Australia reported its first population decline since World War I due to stricter COVID-19 related border controls.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

Last year saw China ease its strict family planning policies, with the government announcing that couples can now have three children instead of one due to falling birth rates.

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