Japan's population shrank at its fastest pace ever in 2019, with the number of people of working age dropping to a new low, government data showed Tuesday, reflecting the rapid aging of society and low birth rate.

The population fell 276,000 to 126.17 million as of Oct. 1, declining for the ninth straight year and recording the largest annual drop since comparable data became available in 1950, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said.

The number of Japanese nationals fell 487,000 to 123.73 million while that of foreign nationals living in Japan grew a record 211,000 to 2.44 million, apparently lifted by the increasing foreign workers coming to the country under a visa system established last year to help ease a labor shortage.

The number of people between the ages of 15 and 64 was 75.07 million and accounted for 59.5 percent of the total, the lowest percentage on record for the working-age population.

The population in 40 of the country's 47 prefectures declined, while that in the remaining seven prefectures including Tokyo grew as the trend of people moving to urban areas continued.

There were 35.89 million people aged 65 or older, accounting for 28.4 percent of the total and breaking the previous year's record high. Of these, people aged 75 or older totaled 18.49 million, accounting for 14.7 percent, also an all-time high.

The population of those aged 14 or younger was 15.21 million, accounting for 12.1 percent of the total, a record low.

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