Japan's population fell for the seventh consecutive year to around 127 million in 2017, when people aged 65 or over accounted for a record 27.7 percent of the total, continuing on the path of a super-aged society, government data showed Friday.
According to the World Health Organization, a country is considered an "aging society" if the proportion of people aged 65 or older exceeds 7 percent, an "aged society" if the proportion surpasses 14 percent, and a "super-aged society" if it is over 21 percent. Japan has the highest proportion of people in the world aged 65 or over.
The country's population stood at 126.71 million as of Oct. 1, down 227,000 or 0.18 percent from a year earlier, with 40 of the country's 47 prefectures recording population declines, according to the data from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
Of the seven prefectures that posted increases, Tokyo had the highest growth of 0.73 percent. Prefectures near the capital such as Kanagawa and Chiba were also among the gainers.
The data include foreign workers and students staying in Japan for over three months.
The number of Japanese nationals stood at 124.65 million, down 372,000 or 0.30 percent from a year earlier. The number of registered foreign residents rose to 2.06 million, exceeding 2 million for the first time, apparently due to an influx of workers.
In a sign of the country's deepening labor shortage, the working-age population from 15 to 64-years-old totaled 75.96 million, or 60 percent of the total, the second lowest level after 59.7 percent in 1950.
Those aged 75 or older totaled 17.48 million, accounting for a record-high 13.8 percent of the total, while those under 15 totaled 15.59 million or a record-low 12.3 percent.
(A caretaker attempts to lift a senior citizen with the help of equipment wrapped around his waist)
By prefecture, the number of births exceeded deaths only in Okinawa. Population growth in six other prefectures resulted from more people moving in than moving out.
Japan's northeastern region is struggling with population decline, with Akita Prefecture logging the steepest decline of 1.40 percent, followed by Aomori and Iwate prefectures.
In Fukushima Prefecture, where a nuclear disaster occurred in 2011 after a massive earthquake and tsunami, the pace of population decline widened more than any other prefecture. Its population dropped 0.97 percent in 2017, compared with 0.69 percent a year before.
Japan's population is declining and its percentage of retirees is rapidly increasing as a result of a very low birthrate for decades and high average life expectancy.
In April 2017, a government institute forecast Japan's population will fall below 100 million in 2053, and to 88.08 million by 2065 when people aged 65 or over will account for 38.4 percent.