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Japan’s population is expected to have shrunk by a record 212,000 people in 2012, the health ministry said Monday.


According to estimates by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of newborns in 2012 was expected to fall by 18,000 to a record low 1,033,000 from 2011.

Thus the natural population decline, which is calculated by deducting deaths from births, is estimated at 212,000, which is higher than the drop in 2011, which surpassed 200,000 for the first time.

With the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research predicting that Japan’s population will drop to 86,740,000 in 2060, a ministry official said that the pace will only get faster as the size of the younger generation declines.

The population has been shrinking since 2005. Although it expanded slightly in 2006, deaths again surpassed births in 2007 and didn’t look back.

The ministry estimated deaths in 2012 would total 1,245,000, completing 10 consecutive years above the 1 million mark, the survey said.

Based on comparable data from 1947, the estimate for deaths is the second-biggest since 2011, when east Japan was hit by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. The 2011 figure was 1,253,066.

The top four leading causes of death in the country were cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and cerebrovascular disease. The four accounted for 60 percent of the overall death rate.

The fertility rate — defined as the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime — was estimated to be the same as in 2011 at 1.39, the survey said.

On average, a person is born every 31 seconds and a person dies every 25 seconds.


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