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Childbirth dwindling in Japan as couples worry about money, age

The average number of children that couples want to have and the number that they are actually having have reached records lows in a survey conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

    The institute announced its 2015 basic survey on birth trends on Sept. 15. The survey found that the average number of children couples in Japan wanted stood at 2.32, down from 2.42 in the previous survey in 2010. The actual average number the couples planned to have was lower, at 2.01 (dropping from 2.07 in 2010). Both figures were record lows on data held since 1977, when couples were first questioned on the topic.

    The average number of births among couples who have practically finished having children was 1.94, also a record low.

    In the government's plans for the "dynamic engagement of all citizens," measures to address the declining birth rate are regarded as being of utmost importance. However, there has been no recovery in couple's desire to have children.

    The most commonly cited reasons the number of children couples plan to have is lower than the number they actually want to have were, "It cost too much to raise and educate children" (56.3 percent) and "We don't want to have children at an old age" (39.8 percent).

    A similar trend was seen among unmarried people. The average number of children men wanted to have stood at 1.91 -- down from 2.04 in the previous survey and the first time for the figure to drop below 2. For women the corresponding figure was 2.02, down from 2.12.

    The government regards the average birth rate among those who had as many children as they wanted to have as the "desired birth rate." It set a desired birth rate of 1.8 based on the previous survey's figure of 1.83, but the rate fell in the latest survey to 1.75.

    Meanwhile, 69.8 percent of unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 34 said they had no partner, compared with 59.1 percent of women. A total of 42 percent of men and 44.2 percent of women said they had had no sexual experience, an increase from previous survey figures.

    The survey is conducted once every five years. In 2015, 14,442 single people and 7,511 couples were surveyed. Valid responses were received from 77 percent of singles and 88 percent of couples.

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