Japan will “disappear” if action is not taken to curb the slowing birthrate in the country, a senior adviser to the Japanese prime minister has warned.
The comment comes just days after Japan announced that the number of babies born last year had slumped to a record low.
The number of newborns fell to 799,728 in 2022, down 5.1 per cent from a year earlier, to the lowest since Japan began record-keeping in 1899, according to data from its health ministry.
The number of deaths rose 8.9 per cent to 1.58 million for the same period the data adds.
“If we go on like this, the country will disappear,” warned Masako Mori, an adviser to the PM said in an interview to Bloomberg after Japan’s 28 February announcement of the record low births.
“It’s the people who have to live through the process of disappearance who will face enormous harm. It’s a terrible disease that will afflict those children,” Ms Mori said.
She said the country’s birthrate is “not falling gradually, it’s heading straight down”.
“A nosedive means children being born now will be thrown into a society that becomes distorted, shrinks and loses its ability to function,” she explained.
Japan’s social security system would collapse, industrial and economic strength would decline and there wouldn’t be enough recruits for the military to protect the country, the adviser said.
She conceded that it was too late to reverse the fast decline in the country’s birthrate because of a fall in the number of women of child-bearing age, but emphasised that the government must do everything it can to help mitigate the damage.
“We recognise that the falling birthrate is a critical situation,” Yoshihiko Isozaki, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, had said after Japan’s announcement.
“My understanding is that various factors are intricately intertwined, preventing individuals from realising their hopes for marriage, childbirth and child-rearing.”
In an effort to control the declining birthrate, Mr Kishida has made support for children and their families a priority, according to local media.
Nikkei Asia reported that the Japanese government allocated $35.2bn from the fiscal 2023 budget to a new agency dedicated to children and their families.
“Our nation is on the cusp of whether it can maintain its societal functions,” Mr Kishida said in January during a policy speech at the opening of this year’s parliamentary session.
“It is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child-rearing – it is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer.”