Japan's population fell by a record 268,000 people last year, new data show, with preliminary figures showing just more than 1 million births in 2014.
The figures released by the country's health ministry showed that the estimated number of people who died in 2014 was 1,269,000, about 1,000 above the previous year. The number of births was 1,001,000, down about 29,000 from 2013. The total population declined by a record 268,000.
The Kyodo news service adds that the number of births could slide below 1 million when new numbers are released in June.
Agence France-Presse adds that the number of births was a new low for the fourth straight year.
An official at the ministry told Kyodo a further decline in births was expected because "the number of reproductive-age women is on the decline."
Japan's aging and shrinking population has been a concern since the 1970s, when the number of newborn babies hit more than 2 million annually. The figure dropped below 1.5 million in 1984 and below 1.1 million in 2005. The country's total population was estimated at 127.3 million in 2013.
The number of deaths has exceeded 1 million annually since 2002.
Those 65 and over are expected to make up nearly 40 percent of the population in 2060. That could mean tough economic times for the world's No. 3 economy, as we noted in a blog post in 2010.