Japan's Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso has come under fire for blaming childless women for the country's declining population, the media reported on Tuesday.
During a speech, Mr Aso, 78, denied that the elderly were the cause of the decline and increasing social security costs, CNN reported.
"There are lots of strange people who say the elderly are to blame, but that is wrong," said Mr Aso, who also holds the role of Finance Minister.
"The problem is with those who didn't give birth."
After being grilled by an opposition lawmaker during a budget committee session, Mr Aso said on Monday that he would retract the remark "if it caused misunderstanding".
"It gave a false impression without conveying the meaning of my original remark," Mr Aso explained, without giving much details.
Japan is a "super-aged" nation, meaning more than 20 per cent of its population is older than 65. It has been on a steady demographic decline since the 1970s.
In 2017, fewer than 950,000 babies were born while the number of deaths rose to a post-war high of 1.3 million, according to the Ministry of Health and Labour.
Since the 1990s, Japan has introduced policies to boost its birth rate, such as enhancing child care services and improving housing and public facilities for families with children.
However, structural issues still prevent both working men and women from balancing their careers with family life.
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