Japan’s health ministry said on Friday that the country’s birth rate fell for the seventh consecutive year in 2022 to a record low, highlighting a crisis with a shrinking population and a rapid rise in the country’s elderly population.

The fertility rate, which is the average number of children a woman gives birth to in her lifetime, was 1.2565, compared to a previous low of 1.2601 in 2005, far below the rate of 2.07 considered necessary to maintain population stability.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida following the the country’s declining birth rate has said the top priority of his government is to allocate 3.5 trillion yen ($25 billion) annually for childcare and other measures to support parents despite high debt levels.

“The number of young people is going to start to drop dramatically in the next decade,” he said this week while visiting a daycare centre. The time period until then is our last chance to reverse the birth decline trend.

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