Japan’s falling birth rate poses a threat to the country’s functioning as a society, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

His “now or never” warning was among the clearest issued by a Japanese leader and comes as the government pledges “unprecedented” childcare support to reverse the trend.

“Due to the rapidly declining birthrate, Japan is on the brink of whether it can maintain its societal functions,” Kishida said, noting that the number of births last year was expected to fall below 800,000, a record low.

“It is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child-rearing, as it is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer,” he added.

Kishida is set to expand economic support such as child allowances, enhance childcare services, and implement workstyle reforms.

The prime minister pointed out that women in Japan tend to become part-time workers after giving birth and said this problem needs to be solved.

After reaching a trough of 1.26 in 2005, Japan’s fertility rate recovered to 1.45 by 2015, but it has since fallen for six years in a row.

Current fertility falls well below the assumptions of projections that Japan’s population will decline from 127mn in 2015 to 88mn by 2065.

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