December 24, 2019 / 7:51 AM / a month ago

Fewer than 900,000 new Japanese babies this year for first time on record

FILE PHOTO: A family takes a selfie photo with a mobile phone at the Beppu Bay Service Area in Beppu, Japan, October 14, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - The number of babies born in Japan fell an estimated 5.9% this year to fewer than 900,000 for the first time since the government started compiling data in 1899, the welfare ministry said on Tuesday.

The dwindling number of births will put more strain welfare finances to support snowballing costs of supporting an ageing population, which would undermine economic growth, analysts say.

There were 512,000 more deaths than births this year, the first time the figure has surpassed 500,000, with 864,000 babies born. Last year, 918,400 babies were born.

This was the biggest decline in births since 1975, driven by a fewer women aged 25 to 39, said a ministry official in charge of compiling the data.

The government is hoping for a birth rate of 1.8% - which world appear a tall order given rate was 1.42% in 2018.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel

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