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No. of children in Japan falls for 37th year to new record low

In this undated file photo, nurses take children out for a walk. According to the latest data, the number of children in Japan fell for the 37th consecutive year despite the government's stated goal of slowing down the decline. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The number of children in Japan fell for the 37th consecutive year to a new record low, the latest data showed Friday, indicating efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration to combat the long-running low birthrate challenge are still wanting.

The number of children, including foreigners, fell 170,000 from a year earlier to 15.53 million as of April 1, the lowest level since comparative data became available in 1950, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. A child is defined as a person aged 14 or under.

The ratio of children to the overall population dipped to a record low of 12.3 percent, down for the 44th straight year since 1975.

Among 32 countries with a population of 40 million or more, Japan ranked lowest in terms of the ratio of children to the overall population, lower than that of Germany at 13.2 percent and South Korea at 13.1 percent, the United Nations Demographic Yearbook showed.

Abe has pledged to tackle the nation's declining and aging population by implementing measures to promote women's empowerment in society and beef up support for child-rearing by increasing the number of daycare facilities. But his efforts have yet to bear fruit.

By age, children from 12 to 14 comprised the largest group at 3.26 million, while the group covering newborns to 2-year-old children were 2.93 million. By gender, there were 7.95 million boys and 7.58 million girls, the ministry said.

The number of children in Japan peaked in 1954 at 29.89 million. While the figure briefly picked up in the 1970s due to the second baby boom, its downward trend resumed in 1982.

Among Japan's 47 prefectures, Tokyo was the only one that had more children than the previous year, according to prefectural data as of last Oct. 1.

Okinawa, the southernmost island prefecture, had the highest ratio of children to the overall population at 17.1 percent, while Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan logged the lowest at 10.1 percent.

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