Jan 23 (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged on Monday to take urgent action to tackle the country’s falling birth rate, saying it was “now or never” for one of the oldest societies in the world.
Japan has tried in recent years to encourage its people to have more children with promises of cash bonuses and better benefits, but it remains one of the most expensive places in the world to raise a child, according to reports. surveys.
Births plunged to a new record last year, according to official estimates, falling below 800,000 for the first time – a watershed moment that came eight years earlier than the government had predicted.
This has most likely precipitated further population decline in a country where the median age is 49, the highest in the world behind the small city-state of Monaco.
“Our nation is on the brink of whether it can maintain its societal functions,” Kishida said in a political speech at the opening of this year’s parliamentary session.
“It’s now or never when it comes to policies around births and child-rearing – it’s a matter that simply can’t wait,” he added.
Kishida said he would submit plans to double the budget for child-related policies by June, and that a new government agency for children and families to oversee the issue would be created in April.
Japan is the third most expensive country in the world to raise a child, according to YuWa Population Research, behind only China and South Korea, countries that are also seeing their populations decline with worrying signs for the global economy.
Other countries are also faced with aging and shrinking populations. Last week, China announced that its population had fallen in 2022 for the first time in 60 years.
Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by John Geddie and Gerry Doyle
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