JAPAN - The number of babies born in the nation in 2012 fell by 13,705 from the previous year to hit a new low of 1,037,101, a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey has revealed.
The total fertility rate - the number of children expected to be born to each woman during her lifetime - rose by 0.02 point to 1.41 from the previous year, according to the survey, which was released Wednesday. The rate increased for the first time in two years, and rose over 1.4 for the first time in 16 years.
A total fertility rate of 2.0 children per woman will maintain the population at a stable level. Japan's rate has continued to fall since dropping below 2.0 in 1975. It slumped to an all-time low of 1.26 in 2005.
Despite the increase in the fertility rate, however, the survey showed that the graying of the nation and the fall in population continues.
The ministry said one factor behind the increase in the total fertility rate was a drop in the number of women used as the denominator when calculating the fertility rate. The ministry also said more women around the age of 40 had babies.
The number of women in their 20s who had a child in 2012 decreased by 16,200 from the previous year, while the number of births among women aged from 35 to 39 and from 40 to 44 increased by a combined total of about 8,700.
The average age for a first birth also rose by 0.2 to 30.3 from 2011, breaking last year's record high.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths in 2012 hit a record high of 1,256,254, increasing by 3,188 from the previous year.
In 2011, the number of deaths increased by more than 50,000 from 2010 due in part to the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The natural decline in population - which is calculated by deducting the number of births from deaths--set another record of 219,153. The number of deaths exceeded the number of births for the sixth year in a row.