Japan’s government is attempting to stem the country’s tumbling birth rate by funding artificial intelligence matchmaking systems designed to help residents find love.

Local officials have already started using AI matching systems to pair people but they are generally simple and often only consider criteria such as income and age to produce results.

The proposed government funding will allow access to systems which match people with potential partners using more sophisticated techniques, according to the Japanese newspaperYomiuri Shimbun.

The number of births in Japan last year fell to the country’s lowest annual figure on record – about 865,000 births, down 5.8 per cent on the previous year – alongside a drop in the number of marriages and a rise in the age of marriage.

A number of Japanese prefectures have introduced sophisticated AI systems, which take hobbies and values into account, to try to boost their area’s birth rate but the systems can be expensive.

For example, Saitama, just north of Tokyo, spent 15 million yen (£108,165) in the fiscal year to March 2019 and saw only 21 couples get married.

Yomiuri Shimbun said the government would guarantee roughly 60 per cent of the cost of the more complex AI systems, out of a 2 billion yen funding plan it is requesting to fight the country’s falling birth rate in next year’s fiscal budget.

“We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” a government official told AFP.

“We hope this support will help reverse the decline in the nation’s birth rate.”

Japan’s population is expected to plummet from about 127 million to 88 million by 2065 if current trends continue, according to the country’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

Government officials are concerned that the country’s contracting population of working age adults will not be able to meet the costs of welfare for its older population.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister from 2012-2020, previously described the low birth rate as a “national crisis” and promised a series of reforms aimed at helping alleviate burdens on families which discourage them from having children.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the country’s problems, with pregnancy numbers and marriages falling this year.

“I reckon the spread of the coronavirus is having many people worried about getting pregnant, giving births and rearing babies,” Tetsushi Sakamoto, the minister in charge of responding to Japan’s declining birth rate, told a news conference in October.

Official data showed the number of notified pregnancies in the three months to July had fallen by 11.4 per cent compared to the previous year, while marriages over the same period dropped by 36.9 per cent.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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