THE Japanese are increasingly concerned about their nation's declining birthrate and want the government to take steps to reverse the trend, according to a government survey released yesterday.
The number of people concerned about Japan's birthrate nearly tripled to 30.7% from five years ago, the Cabinet office survey said.
The concern was most widely shared among women in their 20s and 30s, who are most likely to be struggling to balance work and family life, with little state support.
As of 2004, Japanese women gave birth to an average of 1.29 children in their lifetimes - the lowest rate since the government began releasing the data in 1947, and one of the lowest in the world.
The government started a five-year project this year to build more day-care centres, encourage men to take paternity leave and urge companies to ensure equal opportunities for working mothers.
The fall in the birthrate, despite government efforts to encourage couples to have more children, reflects changing lifestyles for women in particular.
Many single women forego or delay marriage to pursue career opportunities that provide little flexibility or support for working mothers.
Japanese policy-makers have expressed concern about the long-term impact of a rapidly dwindling number of children on the world's second-largest economy.
The trend threatens to leave Japan with a labour shortage, erode its tax base and strain the pension system as fewer taxpayers support an expanding elderly population.
The multiple choice survey of 6,924 adults, taken from June 23 to July 3, also showed that Japan's social security system, medical insurance programme and economy were among the greatest public concerns.