Japan's 2016 Birth Rate Dropped below One Million

February 19, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. face / feɪs / (v.) – to be confronted with something
Example: The company is facing a financial crisis.

2. on record / ˈɒnˌrɛk ərd / (idiom) – according to recorded data
Example: The city’s new skyscraper is its tallest on record.

3. cite / saɪt / (v.) – to mention something
Example: The mayor cited the fast response of the police as the main reason for the operation’s success.

4. allocate / ˈæl əˌkeɪt / (v.) – to set aside for a certain use
Example: The government allocated $3 million for education this year.

5. child-rearing / tʃaɪld rɪər ɪŋ / (n.) – the process of raising children
Example: Special courses on child-rearing must be given to new parents.


Read the text below.
Japan faced another drop in its birth rate last year, according to the country’s latest population survey.

The Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry of Japan announced that in 2016, the country experienced another drop in its annual birth rate for the 10th consecutive year. The ministry recorded less than a million births by the end of 2016. Records show that the number is the lowest on record since the government started documenting births in 1899.

Authorities cite the country’s aging population as one of the major reasons for the decline. Records show that there are 20% less women aged 20 to 30 years old at present compared to a decade ago. In addition to this, the average number of children that women choose to have remains low.

Another key cause cited by authorities is the high cost of raising children in the country. Despite great efforts put forth by the government in supporting families and encouraging couples to have more children, some families still struggle due to the economic challenges that the country has been facing in recent years. To solve this problem, the government is allocating budget for child-rearing support this year.

The government plans to increase the wages of childcare workers and long-term nursery workers to support the country’s childcare industry. Childcare facilities will also be expanded to accommodate more children, and mothers may also be given longer maternity leave if childcare centers are unavailable.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Aside from those mentioned in the article, what are the other factors that affect a country’s birth rate?
·         Do you think that the government’s initiatives to encourage people to have children will work? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         In addition to those mentioned in the article, what are other possible projects that the government can work on to improve child care?
·         Aside from government efforts, what can private sectors do to support child-rearing?

February 19, 2017