Japan faces increased health and pension costs as the population ages
One-quarter of Japanese women are aged 65 or over, official figures indicate, highlighting fears of a looming demographic crisis in the country.
According to government estimates, more than 16 million Japanese women have reached 65, the highest number since records began in 1950.
Nearly one-fifth of men are 65 or older, meaning elderly people account for 22.7% of the population.
Japan is expected to face a shortage of workers as the population ages.
Japan now has 28.98m elderly (those 65 or older according to the World Health Organization) out of its population of 127m - 800,000 more than a year ago.
With one of the world's oldest populations, many young people have put off having families because of the costs.
The shrinking ratio of workers in the population will also face a higher tax burden as healthcare and pension costs rise.
The new government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has promised allowances for couples who have children.
But Japan has traditionally resisted immigration in order to bring more working age people into the country.