China’s population is declining for the first time since 1961, highlighting the demographic crisis

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s population declined last year for the first time in six decades, a historic shift that is expected to mark the start of a long period of declining population numbers with profound repercussions for its economy. and the world.

The decline, the worst since 1961, the last year of the great famine in China, also gives weight to predictions that India will become the world’s most populous country this year.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics said China’s population fell by about 850,000 to 1.41175 billion at the end of 2022.

In the long term, UN experts see China’s population shrinking by 109 million by 2050, more than three times the drop in their previous projection in 2019.

This has caused local demographers to fret that China will get old before it gets rich, slowing the economy as revenues fall and government debt increasing due to rising health and welfare costs.

“China’s demographic and economic outlook is more bleak than expected,” said demographer Ye Fuxian. “China will have to adjust its social, economic, defense and foreign policies.”

He added that the shrinking labor force in the country and the decline in the weight of manufacturing will further exacerbate the high prices and high inflation in the United States and Europe.

Kang Yi, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, told reporters that people should not worry about the decline in population because “the aggregate labor supply still exceeds demand.”

China’s birth rate last year was 6.77 births per 1,000 people, down from the birth rate of 7.52 in 2021, the lowest birth rate ever.

Kang said the number of Chinese women of childbearing age, which the government sets as 25 to 35, has fallen by about 4 million.

The death rate, the highest since 1974 during the Cultural Revolution, was 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, compared to 7.18 deaths in 2021.

The impact of the one-child policy

Much of the demographic decline is due to the one-child policy imposed by China between 1980 and 2015, as well as prohibitive education costs that have prevented many Chinese from having more than one child or even one child at all.

The data was the most popular topic on Chinese social media after the numbers were released on Tuesday. One hashtag, β€œ#Is it really important to have offspring?” Hundreds of millions of hits.

β€œThe fundamental reason for a woman’s unwillingness to have children lies not in herself, but in the failure of society and men to take responsibility for raising children. For women who give birth, this leads to a serious deterioration in their quality of life and spiritual life,” posted a netizen with the username Joyful Ned.

Demographic experts said that China’s strict anti-coronavirus policies three years ago caused further damage to the country’s demographic outlook.

Since 2021, local governments have introduced measures to encourage people to have more children, including tax cuts, longer maternity leave and housing subsidies. President Xi Jinping also said in October that the government will implement more supportive policies.

However, actions so far have done little to halt the long-term trend.

Online searches for baby strollers on China’s Baidu search engine fell 17% in 2022 and are down 41% since 2018, while searches for baby bottles have fallen by more than a third since 2018. In contrast, searches for nursing homes are up. Elderly eight times as much in the past year.

The opposite is happening in India, where Google Trends shows a 15% year-on-year increase in searches for baby bottles in 2022, while searches for cribs are up nearly fivefold.

Reuters graphics

Additional reporting by Albie Zhang in Beijing and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Kevin Yau and Ella Kao in Beijing; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment