Birthrate continues to fall
The country’s birthrate last year dropped to its lowest level since 1949, adding to concerns that an aging society and shrinking workforce will pile pressure on a slowing economy. The birthrate last year stood at 10.48 per 1,000 people, National Bureau of Statistics data released yesterday showed. The number of births has now fallen for three consecutive years. There were 14.65 million babies born last year, after 15.23 million in 2018 and 17.23 million in 2017. Still, the population stood at 1.4 billion by the end of last year, increasing by 4.67 million from the year before, but the workforce continued to shrink. There were 896.4 million people aged between 16 and 59, a drop from 897.3 million in 2018, the bureau said, marking the eighth consecutive year of decline and the workforce is expected to decline by as much as 23 percent by 2050.
Suicides reach record low
The number of suicides in the nation last year fell to a record low, the government said yesterday, as it tackles one of the world’s highest suicide rates. Preliminary data released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed that 19,959 people died by suicide last year, a 4.2 percent drop. About 70 percent of those were men, the data showed. Final data are to be released in March, and the figures are likely to be slightly higher, after police confirm whether deaths recorded in the final months of the year were linked to suicide. However, officials said that the final figure was still expected to be a record low since data collection began in 1978. The number of suicides peaked in 2003 at 34,427 and the average surpassed 30,000 between 2004 and 2011, but has been falling steadily since then. Japan “must face the fact that 20,000 people still took their own precious lives,” Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Katsunobu Kato told reporters.
Menstruation huts torn down
Authorities are knocking down tiny huts where women have been exiled during menstruation and exposed to cold weather and threats from animals, and even sexual assaults. Government officials accompanied by police officers and local politicians were going to villages and towns in Kanchanpur District, tearing down the sheds mostly made of mud walls and covered by straw roofs, Chief District Officer Sushil Baidhya said yesterday. Many menstruating women are still forced to shelter in huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends. The custom — called chhaupadi — continues in many parts of the country, despite being made illegal, especially in the western hills. Several women and girls have died during their exile. A major cause of the deaths is smoke inhalation, because they lit a fire to keep warm in the tiny huts in hilly or mountainous areas.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
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BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by
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