Japan's population fell by a record 268,000 in 2013, according to health ministry estimates released on Thursday, highlighting concerns over an ever-dwindling workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners.
The ministry said an estimated 1,001,000 babies were born in 2014, down about 29,000 from 2013, a decline for the 8th straight year.
The number of recorded deaths was 1,269,000, the highest since the end of World War II, the ministry said.
Japan is rapidly graying, with more than 20% of the population aged 65 or over -- one of the highest proportions of elderly people in the world. The country has very little immigration and any suggestion of opening its borders to young workers who could help plug the population gap provokes strong reactions among the public.
The proportion of people aged 65 or over will reach nearly 40% of the population in 2060, according to a 2012 government report.
In other statistics released by the ministry, a record low 649,000 couples got married in 2014, while 222,000 couples filed for divorce.© Japan Today/AFP