Japan’s Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry has released the statistics that show 2011 was the first year that the average age of women in the country becoming new mothers was over 30. The average age was 30.1 to be exact, so it’s not really “over,” but the number is still significant nonetheless. As Japan’s birthrate has been on a steady decline over the last few years, and the elderly are making up a larger and larger percentage of the population, this information is important when looking the future growth of Japan’s population.
Unfortunately, there are two other statistics that continue to drop. For the third year in a row, the number of marriages declined to 661,899 in 2011, and the number of babies born was 1,050,698, a decrease of 10,000 from the year before. What’s troubling is that both numbers are at record lows for the postwar years. The health ministry states that women are finding it harder than before to start a family. This is credited to an inclination to marry at a later age, and financial problems related to taking childcare leave from their careers.
The fertility rate was found to have remained unchanged in 2011, calculated to 1.39. This is the average number of children a woman in Japan is believed to have in her lifetime. 2005 measured a record low, at 1.26, but between 2006 and 2008 it recovered to 1.37. The 1.39 average has remained the same since 2009. In terms of location, Okinawa had the highest fertility rate at 1.86, while the lowest was in Tokyo, at 1.06.