Japan's population, excluding resident foreigners, declined as of Jan. 1 in 2018 from the year before at the fastest pace since the current survey started in 1968, with fewer than 1 million births for the second straight year, government data showed Wednesday.
There were 125,209,603 Japanese in the country, a record drop of 374,055 from a year earlier and the ninth straight year of decline, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said, even as the government takes measures aimed at dealing with a rapidly graying society.
Data showed that the number of births in 2017 fell to a record-low 948,396 and deaths totaled a record-high 1,340,774, with deaths outnumbering births for the 11th consecutive year.
Japanese society is also aging rapidly, with people aged over 65 accounting for 27.66 percent, up 0.49 point from a year earlier, of the entire population. The ratio of people aged 14 or younger stood at 12.57 percent.
The population dropped in 41 of Japan's 47 prefectures amid a continued influx into the capital and its vicinity, with Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, recording the biggest decline of 34,805. Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan saw the largest rate of decrease at 1.39 percent.
Among the six which showed population growth, births outnumbered deaths only in Okinawa, while the rest -- Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, and Aichi -- saw more people moving in than moving out.
Population concentration in the country's three largest metropolitan areas also continued, as 64,534,346 people resided in the greater Tokyo area, Aichi Prefecture's Nagoya area in central Japan, and the Kansai area including Osaka in western Japan.
Among the major metro areas, however, only Tokyo, the capital, and its vicinity gained population, as it was home to 35,443,084 people, or 28.31 percent of the national total.
At the same time, the number of registered foreign residents in the country increased to 2,497,656, up 174,228 from a year earlier.
The number is expected to rise further in view of a policy approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government last month to welcome more foreign workers to address labor shortages amid the shrinking population.
The latest annual survey showed that the number of foreign residents decreased only in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, after the completion of a shipbuilding project in which many foreigners were hired.
The overall population in the country including resident foreigners fell to 127,707,259, declining 199,827 from a year earlier.