Population of Japan drops for the first time

Updated: 2016-02-27 04:45

By Associated Press(China Daily)

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Japan's latest census confirmed the hard reality signaled long ago by shuttered shops and abandoned villages across the country: The population is shrinking.

Japan's population stood at 127.1 million last fall, down 0.7 percent from 128.1 million in 2010, according to results of the 2015 census, released on Friday. The 947,000 decline in the population in the past five years was the first since the count, taken once every five years, started in 1920.

Unable to count on a growing market and labor force to power economic expansion, the government has drawn up urgent measures to counter the falling birth rate.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made preventing a decline below 100 million a top priority. But population experts say it would be virtually impossible to prevent that, even if the birthrate rose to Abe's target of 1.8 children per woman from the current birthrate of 1.4.

Tokyo's rush hour trains are just as crowded as ever: Japan's biggest cities have continued to grow as younger workers leave small towns in search of work. The census showed Tokyo's population grew to 13.5 million, up 2.7 percent since the 2010 census.

But a visit to any regional city will find entire blocks of small shops shuttered, the owners usually either retired or deceased. In rural areas, villages are mostly empty.

The rate of population growth peaked in 1950 and has fallen continuously since 1975. By 2011, it had hit zero, the census figures show.