TOKYO — Japan's birthrate last year hit its lowest level since 1899, mainly because of a drop in numbers of women of childbearing age, government officials said Wednesday. Statistics showed that births fell from 11.9 per 1,000 people in 1985 to 11.4 last year, the Health and Welfare Ministry officials said.
The drop resulted from a decline in the population of women aged 20 to 34, as well as from recent trends among Japanese women to have fewer children and marry later in life.
The 1.38 million babies born last year was the second lowest number since the statistics started in 1899. The record low this century was set in 1966, a fire horse year in the Oriental zodiacal calendar, when there were only 1.36 million registered births. Oriental superstition holds that women born in such years, which occur every six decades, will grow up to kill their husbands.