Birthrate in Fukushima Pref. recovers to pre-disaster levels in 2013, logs nation's biggest rise

According to a nationwide population survey for 2013 reported by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on June 4, the total fertility rate -- the average number of children born to a woman -- stood at 1.53 in Fukushima Prefecture last year, up 0.12 point from 2012. The rate recovered to levels prevailing in the years immediately before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. The amount of increase in the Fukushima rate was the largest among Japan's 47 prefectures, boosting the rate to the 15th highest level across the nation from 33rd in 2012. In 2011, when the quake and nuclear disaster occurred, Fukushima's fertility rate fell 0.04 point from the previous year to 1.48 and another 0.07 point to 1.41 in 2012. The 2013 rise was the first increase in three years. The number of newborn babies in the prefecture was 14,546 last year, up 776 from 2012. Since the disaster, the Fukushima prefectural government has placed policy emphasis on measures to cope with a population decline as well as fewer babies and population aging. Specifically, it has endeavored to improve the childbearing and rearing environment by offering free medical care for young people aged 18 or less, increasing indoor play areas and expanding a scheme for detecting radioactive materials in school lunch meals, among other things. Chart: Fukushima prefectural and national fertility rate trends (the red polygonal line shows prefectural rates and the red line national data; white figures in circles against a black background denote nationally compared ranks) (Translated by Kyodo News)