Japan's population grew by its lowest rate since World War II over the past five years, the government said Friday, emphasizing the headache facing future generations of taxpayers caring for their elders.
The nation's population stands at 126.9 million, according to the latest census released by the Management and Coordination Agency.
The number of inhabitants increased just 1.1 percent or 1.3 million from the survey taken five years ago, the slowest rate of growth since the war.
"The growth rate of the population has been shrinking over the years," said agency official Terushige Ando.
"The fact that the growth rate is falling shows the number of newly-born children has been declining," he said.
The census showed more women than ever in their 20s and 30s are single, Ando said, as increasing numbers of women choose to put off marriage and family for a career.
"The fertility rate per woman continues to remain at a very low level of about 1.3," the official said.
While the developing world worries about overpopulation, Japan and other advanced countries are battling a low birth-rate that threatens to leave societies groaning with the burden of caring for the elderly.
An additional worry for Japanese taxpayers will be paying off a massive debt left by the government from billions of dollars in stimulus spending over the past decade, which was designed to prop up the ailing economy.
Japan's outstanding national debt, held by both the central and local governments, will reach a record 666 trillion yen (5.6 trillion dollars) by March 2003, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.
That would be an unprecedented 1.28 times more than the nation's nominal gross domestic product.
One solution to Japan's demographic crisis would be large-scale immigration, but no politician has proposed that in a country that has never been keen to welcome large hordes of foreigners -- TOKYO (AFP)
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