Japan's population falls for seventh consecutive year on dwindling birth rates

Smaller population runs counter to Abe's aim of increasing the workforce by a million people.

Japan, the world's fastest-aging major nation, recorded a decrease in population for the seventh consecutive year as the number of deaths dominated new births in the country.

According to the government data released on Wednesday, the total number of residents in the country fell by 271,834 to 125.9 million people as of January 1.

The figures showed that those who are living in one of the three biggest urban areas -- Tokyo, Nagoya and Kansai -- rose to a record of 64.5 million (51.23 percent). The total number of foreigners living in the country rose from 111,562 to 2.17 million, which is about 5.4 per cent. The biggest drop in the population came from the northern island of Hokkaido.

The survey also showed that the number of deaths totaled 1,296,144 across the nation, up for three years in a row. For the first time in two years, the births came to 1,010,046, but were way below deaths.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has aimed to stop population numbers from falling below 100 million. But according to a projection by a government panel, if they fail to boost the nation's birthrate, then they would have to witness a labour force collapse by more than 40 percent by 2060.

A smaller population also runs counter to Abe's aim of increasing the workforce by a million people and boosting the gross domestic product by about 20 percent over the next four years.

Yu Korekawa, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo, said the number of foreigners coming to Japan has been steadily increasing since the 1990s. "The foreign population fell off after the financial crisis and 2011 earthquake, but is now rising again," said Korekawa.