Japan will cease to exist if it can't slow a fall in its birth rate that threatens to wreck the social safety net and economy, according to an adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
"If we go on like this, the country will disappear," Masako Mori said in an interview in Tokyo after Japan announced on Feb. 28 the number of babies born last year slumped to a record low.
"It's the people who have to live through the process of disappearance who will face enormous harm. It's a terrible disease that will afflict those children," she added.
Last year, about twice as many people died as were born in Japan, with fewer than 800,000 births and about 1.58 million deaths. An alarmed Kishida has vowed to double spending on children and families in a bid to control the slide, which is progressing even faster than forecast.
The population has fallen to 124.6 million from a peak of just over 128 million reached in 2008, and the pace of decline is increasing. Meanwhile the proportion of people 65 or over rose to more than 29% last year. While South Korea has a lower fertility rate, Japan's population is shrinking faster.