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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 June 9 - 15  > Number of births hits record low in 2020
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2021 June 9 - 15 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Number of births hits record low in 2020

June 9, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

Data the Health and Welfare Ministry released on June 4 show that the number of babies born in 2020 decreased by 24,407 from 2019 to 840,832, falling to a new low and marking the fifth straight yearly decline. In addition to the present weak childcare infrastructure, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating Japan's low birthrate.

Whether to have children, when to give birth, or how many children to have are what each woman or couple can freely decide. The problem is that many people, despite wanting to have children, are hampered by tight household budgets and poor governmental support for families with small children.

The successive Liberal Democratic Party governments have neglected to take effective measures to overcome the declining birthrate and have turned their back on the general public's call for a radical increase in the number of authorized daycare facilities for children, exacerbating the problem of long childcare waiting lists. Past governments have also failed to seriously work to eliminate excessively long working hours and unpaid overtime forced on many young workers, causing difficulties in raising a child. The past governments have never instructed companies to stop replacing regular employees with non-regular workers and have left the unstable employment situation of young generations unaddressed.

One of the major causes of the declining birthrate is the ailing Japanese economy hit by the current COVID-19 pandemic. About 900,000 women part-timers faced cutbacks in their work schedules, did not receive leave allowance, and lost their jobs, according to the Nomura Research Institute. The NLI Research Institute of Nippon Life Insurance asked people who said "the number of children they hope to have in the future decreased" for their reasons. The most common answer was due to "insecurity about their future household budget". The pandemic situation has increased housework and childrearing tasks associated with teleworking and nationwide school closures mainly for women, bringing into relief that childrearing has become a burden for many women during the pandemic.

The government should urgently have large corporations and large asset holders pay their fair share of taxes and should drastically expand the national budget for children and childrearing expenses which is remarkably small compared to European nations.

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