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Plunging births push Japanese diaper maker to switch to adult market

TOKYO, Japan — Japan's plummeting birth rate has led a diaper manufacturer to stop making them for babies at home and instead ramp up production for adults, the company said Tuesday.

Oji Holdings will wrap up domestic output of infant diapers in September, after production dropped from a 2001 peak of around 700 million annually to 400 million today.

"Demand for baby diapers is decreasing because of factors including the falling birth rate," a spokesman told AFP. They will continue to be sold in Japan until stocks run out.

The number of births in Japan dropped to a new low in 2023, with more than twice as many deaths as new babies.

The spokesman said Oji Holdings will boost production of the sanitary items for adults in the country, anticipating their use mainly in facilities like nursing homes.

Japan has the world's oldest population after Monaco, and the market for adult diapers is "expected to grow domestically," the company said in a statement on Monday.

Oji Holdings, which also makes other paper products, said it would however "maintain and expand" baby diaper production and sales overseas, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, citing expectations of growth there.

In Japan, births in 2023 fell for the eighth consecutive year to 758,631, a drop of 5.1 percent, preliminary data showed in February. The number of deaths stood at 1,590,503.

The nation is facing growing labour shortages, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has vowed policies including financial aid for families, easier childcare access and more parental leave to try and boost the birth rate.