Japan’s birth rate is expected to shrink as the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fall in pregnancies, the government said on Wednesday.
The country’s Health Ministry said the number of pregnancies fell by around 11.4% in the three months from May amid pandemic compared to a year earlier, Kyodo News agency reported.
It could result in a sharp drop of newborns next year, the ministry said. The worrying development is being linked to economic stress due to the pandemic while many women who return to their families to give birth might also have postponed pregnancies due to travel restrictions.
Japan has the world’s highest life expectancy and is facing an ageing population with lesser new births. It also has the highest percentage of elderly people anywhere in the world.
Last year, the country witnessed a record-low birth rate as the number of babies born fell to 865,000 — the lowest since records began in 1899.
The pandemic-hit country could see fewer than 800,000 babies born next year if the current trend continues.
This May saw the sharpest drop in pregnancies, falling 17.1%, followed by June with a 5.4% drop and a 10.9% fall in July.
At least 90% of Japanese women report to the local government about pregnancies within 11 weeks of conception, the report said.
Of Japan’s 47 provinces, the western Yamaguchi province has witnessed the biggest fall at 29.7%, followed by the Aomori province in the country’s northeast at 23.7% and the central Ishikawa province with 22.5%.
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