Last October, it was reported that the birth rate in Japan took a big plunge after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. State of emergencies led to significantly less socializing, and couples planning on having a child no doubt put off said plans until a less deadly-virus-riddled time.
Now that the year has come to a close, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare are crunching the numbers and have come up with a preliminary total of 827,683 births across the country in 2020. When all is said and done, they expect a final tally of between 830,000 and 840,000, which is still well below 2019’s birth count of 856,239 and the lowest on record.
Moreover, COVID-19 didn’t become a huge concern in Japan until about late February or March, meaning a lot of people were caught with a bun in the oven already when the pandemic got into full swing. Since many others are probably still putting off baby-making until the coast is clear, we can’t expect many pregnancy attempts to even get started in earnest until late 2021, when the vaccines have been made available to everyone.
As a result, the ministry is forecasting the possibility that births will even dip below the 800,000 mark over this year.
On the bright side, they have also announced that deaths were down by 9,373 from the previous year with a preliminary total of 1,384,544 in 2020. That might seem small percentage-wise but considering the relentlessly aging population here, Japan has been pretty much been consigned to an ever increasing death rate for the next few decades to come.
The fact that any decrease took place is significant and this is the first time it’s happened since 2009. As Megadeth likes to remind us, there are at least 99 ways to die, so it’s hard to pinpoint why this is, but the fact that cases of Japan’s perennial killer, the flu, has plummeted by an amazing 99.4 percent on average this season is probably a big factor.
Nevertheless, news that fewer new faces would be arriving this year left many commenters feeling doom and gloom, but some were warming up to a possible future with less people around.
“It’s kind of good. If there are fewer people, less food will be needed and there will be less harm to the environment.”
“We should start preparing for a population of about 50 million now.”
“They said the point of raising sales tax was for future generations, but there aren’t going to be future generations.”
“Of course, with this virus people can’t even get married properly anymore.”
“Who would want to have a baby now of all times?”
“I guess we’re going to call these kids the ‘Corona Generation.'”
Sadly, that last comment is probably true, since we can expect those delayed pregnancies to come back in full swing in 2022 and cause the birthrate to spike. This will leave us with a two-year mini-generation that will cause quite a hiccup in social services, namely the already struggling educational system.
Hopefully they won’t be given such a bleak and pathogenic nickname though.
Source: Mainichi Shimbun, Weather News, Hachima Kiko
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