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Japan’s births just fell to a new record low. Tokyo hopes a dating app can turn that around

Tokyo CNN —

Japan’s fertility rate, which has seen a precipitous fall for many years, has reached another record low as the government ramps up efforts to encourage young people to get married and start families — even launching its own dating app.

The nation of 123.9 million people only recorded 727,277 births last year, according to new data released by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on Friday. The fertility rate – defined as the total number of births a woman has in her lifetime – dropped from 1.26 to 1.20.

For a population to remain stable, it needs a fertility rate of 2.1. Anything above that will see a population expand, with a large proportion of children and young adults, as seen in India and many African nations.

But in Japan, the fertility rate has been well below that stable marker of 2.1 for half a century, experts say – it fell below that level after the 1973 global oil crisis pushed economies into recession, and never recovered.

Customers browse kids clothes at a Toys «R» Us/Babies «R» Us store inside the Aeon Mall Kyoto shopping mall, operated by Aeon Mall Co., in Kyoto, Japan, on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. The store, operated by Toys «R» Us Japan Ltd., reopened Friday after a renovation. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Related article Japan’s population crisis was years in the making – and relief may be decades away

The downward trend has accelerated in recent years, with the number of deaths overtaking births each year and causing the total population to shrink – with far-reaching consequences for Japan’s workforce, economy, welfare system and social fabric.

In 2023, the country recorded 1.57 million deaths, according to the Health Ministry – more than double the number