Last week, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare announced that the 2012 Japanese birth rate reached 1.41, the highest average in 16 years. While this number is encouraging to a rapidly aging population that has seen birthrates below 2.0 since 1975, it is still below the 2.07 required to maintain the current population size according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. The average number of babies a woman is expected to have in her lifetime has been increasing over the last seven years after hitting a post-war low of 1.26 in 2005.
The total numbers of babies born declined for the second consecutive year. 14,000 fewer births were recorded in 2012 than 2011. With the number of deaths also increasing, the overall population of Japan fell by over 17,000. While the current population is 128 million, United Nations projections estimate that the Japanese population will to fall to 108 million by 2050.
The reason for the increase was second-generation baby-boomer women, born between 1971-1974 who are now in their late 30s, that are trying to have children before the end of their reproductive cycle. Researchers warn that the increased birthrate will only be temporary since most of the push came from this specific population.
Long-term trends show women waiting until later in their lives to have their first child, leading to fewer total births over the course of their lives. In an effort to encourage women to have more children, Prime Minister Abe has proposed increasing the capacity of childcare facilities and working with companies to expand childcare leave from the current 18 months up to three years.