More than half of Japanese women childless at 30
TOKYO, Mar 4 (Reuters) More than half of Japanese women born in the early 1970s were still childless at 30, intensifying fears about the nation's already low birthrate, Japanese media said today.
The baby shortage, which has contributed to a decline in the overall population that began last year, is now an urgent problem for policy makers, who fear a smaller workforce supporting a growing number of elderly will hurt the world's number two economy.
According to Health Ministry figures released late yesterday, 50.3 per cent of women born between 1971 and 1974 -- what Japan calls the second baby boomer generation -- had had no children by the time they reached 30.
Fifty-one per cent of those born in 1973 were childless at 30.
''That many women in the second baby boomer generation have few children could mean the birthrate will fall at a faster rate and the population will further decline,'' said a Health Ministry official quoted by the Kyodo news agency.
Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime -- fell to a postwar low of 1.2888 in 2004 from 1.2905 in 2003. Demographers say a rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population from declining.
Officials have said the next five years, while these second baby boomers are still in their 30s, are crucial for efforts to halt Japan's population decline.
The nation's population shrank in the year to October for the first time since 1945.
REUTERS CS KN0918