The birth of Kentaro Yokobori, the first newborn in 25 years in Kawakami village in Sogio district, was considered a miracle by local residents. In a quarter of a century, the village’s population dropped by more than half to 1,150 as young people moved to the cities, leaving rural areas such as agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry facing a severe labor shortage. This situation is not unique to Japan but is widespread throughout the world.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has warned that the country is on the verge of being unable to maintain its social functions due to a declining birth rate and an aging population. In 2022, Japan had the lowest number of births on record (799,728), which is only slightly more than half of the 1.5 million births recorded in 1982. Japan’s fertility rate has fallen to 1.3, well below the 2.1 required to maintain a stable population.
In addition, deaths have exceeded births for more than a decade. Funding pensions and medical care for a growing elderly population is a challenging task for Japan’s leaders as the labor force shrinks. Busy urban lifestyles, long working hours, rising costs of living, cultural taboos, and patriarchal norms are some of the factors affecting Japan’s birth rate.
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