TOKYO: Japan, which celebrates every May 5 as Children’s Day, has fewer children to celebrate than any time in the last century.

A government report released on Sunday said there were 17.25 million children aged 14 or younger as of April — a record low for the 27th consecutive year.

The last time Japan had fewer children was in 1908, and children’s share of the general population — 13.5 percent — is the lowest ever recorded. Japan now has the lowest percentage of children among 31 major countries, the report said.

With a declining birth rate and high life expectancies, Japan faces an unprecedented demographic shift that is expected to strain government services and lead to labour shortages.

In 12 years, the percentage of children is projected to drop to 10.8 per cent, while the proportion of those 65 and older is likely to rise to 29.2 per cent, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The government forecasts that by 2040, children will be 9.3 per cent of the population and the over-65 portion will grow to 36.5 per cent. — AP

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