Japan's population likely shrank in 2005, a news report said, starting its decline one year earlier than previously expected and underscoring growing concerns about labor shortages and declining tax revenues. The Health Ministry is expected to release an annual survey later this month showing that Japan's population declined for the first time since the first survey in 1899, Japan's largest daily Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said in its Tuesday evening edition.
On Friday, the Health Ministry said Japan's population would begin declining as early as next year. Yukiko Yamaguchi, a statistics official of the Health Ministry, said she could not confirm the report.
A preliminary Health Ministry report in August showed there were 31,000 fewer births than deaths between January and June, Yomiuri said.
It added that the number of births will likely remain under 1.1 million this year and that the population will have declined by tens of thousands. The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research initially projected 1.14 million births in 2005. The government is concerned that a shrinking population could threaten the country with labor shortages, tax shortfalls and an overburdened pension system as the ratio of taxpaying workers shrinks in comparison to the number of retirees, reports the AP. I.L.