China’s population shrank for the first time in more than 60 years
The population of China fell last year for the first time in more than six decades, official data showed on Tuesday, as the world’s most populous country faces a looming demographic crisis.
The nation of 1.4 billion people It has seen birth rates drop to record lows as its workforce ages, in a rapid decline that analysts warn, it could hamper economic growth and increase pressure on public coffers.
The population of mainland China stood at around 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022reported the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), a decrease of 850,000 from the end of the previous year.
The number of births was 9.56 million, the NBS said, while the number of deaths stood at 10.41 million.
The last time China’s population declined was in the early 1960s, when the country battled the worst famine in its modern historyas a result of Mao Zedong’s disastrous agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.
China ended its strict one-child policy, imposed in the 1980s for fear of overpopulation, in 2016 and began allowing couples to have three children in 2021.
But that has failed to reverse the demographic decline of a country that has long relied on its vast workforce as the engine of economic growth.
“The population is likely to trend downward in the coming years,” said Zhiwei Zhang of Pinpoint Asset Management.
“China cannot rely on the demographic dividend as a structural engine of economic growth,” he added.
“Economic growth will have to rely more on productivity growthwhich is driven by government policies.”
Many point to the rising cost of living, as well as a growing number of women in the workforce and seeking higher education, behind the slowdown.
“There is a lot of pressure in having children, who dares to have children?” exclaimed a Shanghai resident in his thirties.
“The unemployment rate is so high, COVID destroyed everything, there is nothing we can do. Next year we will have a declining record again.”
“For those of us who were born in the 1980s, there are more of us who are from families with only one child,” a young woman told the AFP in Beijing.
“There is a lot of pressure when it comes to taking care of your parents and improving your quality of life in the future.”
The one-child policy also means the Chinese have grown accustomed to smaller families.said to the AFP Xiujian Peng, a researcher at the University of Victoria in Australia.
The news about population decline they quickly became a trend on China’s heavily censored internet.
“Without children, the State and the nation have no future,” read a comment on the service. Weibo Similar to Twitter.
“Having children is also a social responsibility,” read another comment from a well-known “patriotic” influencer.
but others again they pointed out the difficulties of raising children in modern China.
“I love my mother, I will not be a mother,” said one.
“No one reflects on why we don’t want to have (children) and we don’t want to get married”said another.
The independent demographer he yafu He also pointed out “the decrease in the number of women of childbearing age, which fell by five million per year between 2016 and 2021” – a consequence of the aging of the population – as the reason for the drop in the birth rate.
Many local authorities have already put measures in place to encourage couples to have children.
The southern megacity of Shenzheneg now offers birth bonuses of up to 10,000 yuan (about $1,500) and pay allowances until the child is three years old.
In the east of the country, the city of jinan from January 1, it pays a monthly stipend of 600 yuan (about $90) to couples who have a second child.
But analysts argue that much more needs to be done.
“Needed a comprehensive policy package covering childbirth, parenting and education to reduce the cost of raising children,” he told the AFP researcher Peng.
“Women’s job insecurity after giving birth needs to be addressed in particular.”
China’s population could decline by 1.1 percent each year on averageaccording to a study by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences updated last year and shared with AFP.
China could have only 587 million people in 2100less than half of the current ones, according to the most pessimistic projections of that team of demographers.
And India is poised to unseat China this year as the world’s most populous country, according to the United Nations.
(With information from AFP)