The number of annual births in Japan is set to fall below 1 million this year for the first time since data became available in 1899, reflecting a fast-ageing society and the high cost of childcare, Japanese media reported on Thursday.
The total number of births is expected to be between 980,000 and 990,000 this year, reports in the Nikkei business daily and the Kyodo news agency said, down from slightly more than 1 million last year.
Kyodo cited unidentified government sources, while the Nikkei did not indicate the source of its information.
Births hit a record high of 2.696 million in 1949.
A shrinking population of women in their 20s and 30s - about 13.66 million in October or 20 percent fewer than a decade ago - is a key factor in the falling number of births, the Nikkei said. So is a low fertility rate.
Japan's fertility rate was 1.45 in 2015, up 0.03 points from a year earlier, helped by an economic recovery, and is recovering from the record low of 1.26 hit in 2005. However, it is still far from the government's goal of 1.80.
Japan will again post a natural population decline this year as deaths outpace births, its 10th consecutive drop, the Nikkei said.
On Thursday, Japan's cabinet approved a record US$830 billion (S$1.2 trillion) spending budget for fiscal 2017, which includes child-rearing support.
The health ministry plans to release its estimate of the number of this year's births this week, a ministry official said.