The number of newborns in Japan hit a record-low 918,397 in 2018, staying below the 1 million mark for the third year in a row, a government survey showed Friday.

The rapidly aging country posted the largest margin of decrease in its population at 444,085 since comparable data became available in 1899, with the number of births falling 27,668 from the previous year and the number of deaths rising 22,085 to 1,362,482, according to the health ministry.

The country's total fertility rate -- the average number of children a women will bear in her lifetime -- fell 0.01 point from the previous year to 1.42, clouding prospects for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to achieve its goal of increasing the rate to 1.8 by March 2026.

The total fertility rate has been hovering around 1.4 since 2012 after hitting a low of 1.26 in 2005. The rate fell below 2.00 in 1975, a large decline from 4.54 in 1947.

The average age for Japanese women to give birth to their first child stood at 30.7 for the four straight year, and the number of babies born to women aged between 30 and 34 fell more than 10,000.

Okinawa was the only prefecture where the birth number was above that of death. Among Japan's 47 prefectures, it had the highest birth rate of 1.89, followed by Shimane's 1.74 and Miyazaki's 1.72. The lowest was Tokyo with 1.20.

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"We will implement policies that will help mothers who want to give birth and raise children," said an official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

According to a recent survey by a Japanese group helping with child raising, 73.5 percent of nearly 3,000 respondents said they feel it is difficult for them to have a second child.

In the online survey, conducted in late May by 1more Baby Oendan, 82 percent of them said the hurdle to having a second child is mainly economic.

The government survey showed that the number of marriages also fell to a postwar low of 586,438, down by 20,428 from the previous year. The average age for a first marriage was 31.1 for men and 29.4 for women, which has not changed since 2014.

It also showed that cancer continued to be the highest cause of death, accounting for 27.4 percent of the total, followed by heart disease at 15.3 percent and natural causes at 8.0 percent, while 20,032 people committed suicide, down 433 from a year earlier and accounting for 1.5 percent of the total.