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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Japan fertility hits record low
Buggy in Japanese shop
Many Japanese women do not want to be tied down
Japan's fertility rate has sunk to a new low for the fourth year running.

It fell to 1.2888 in 2004, down from 1.2905 in 2003, where the figure refers to the number of children an average woman is expected to give birth to.

Correspondents say the fall indicates the government's efforts to encourage more births have been unsuccessful.

Japan's falling birth rate could affect the national social security system, which is already suffering from a shortage of funds for pension benefits.

The country has one of the lowest birth rates in the world.

In an effort to reverse this trend, the government has announced a number of incentive schemes intended to offer more child-care facilities and other benefits for working mothers.

But many Japanese women say it is social attitudes, rather than policies, which put them off getting married or having children.

Men are still expected to spend long hours at the office and little time at home, while there is pressure on women to give up work when they have children.


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