Taro Aso: Japan minister U-turns on birth-rate gaffe

A picture of Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Japan's deputy PM said it was odd to blame Japan's demographic troubles on the elderly

Japan's deputy prime minister has caused consternation after appearing to blame the country's low birth-rate on women.

Taro Aso, 78, said elderly people were being unfairly linked to Japan's stagnating economy and worries about health costs.

"There are lots of weird people who say the elderly are at fault, but that's incorrect," he was quoted as saying.

"Rather, those who aren't giving birth to children are the problem.

"The ageing population combined with the diminishing number of children is the grave issue."

Mr Aso was speaking at a constituency meeting in Fukuoka, south-west Japan.

On Monday he retracted his remarks after criticism from opposition MPs, who said they could hurt couples who were unable to have children.

"I'd like to withdraw my comment and will be careful with my words in the days ahead," the minister said.

He told reporters his words had been taken out of context.

According to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Mr Aso also called the rise in life expectancy "marvellous" on Sunday, and said Japan needs a social security system that supports people of all generations.

The minister is not the first Japanese lawmaker to be accused of sexism in recent years.

In May 2018, an MP from the country's governing party said young Japanese women should have more children or face being a burden on the state.

Kanji Kato said that if he meets a woman who doesn't intend to marry, he tells her she will end up in a care home paid for by taxes from other people's children.

Japan's birth rate fell to its lowest level since records began in 2018, and the population shrank by 448,000 people.

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