BEIJING: China’s population shrank last year for the first time in more than six decades. Official data showed on Tuesday, leaving the world’s most populous country . Facing a demographic crisis.
The country of 1.4 billion people has seen its birth rate fall to a record low as its workforce ages. A sharp decline that analysts warn could hamper economic growth and put . A strain on strained public coffers.
The mainland Chinese population will stand at about 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022, the. National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in Beijing said, down 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, as the country struggled with . The worst famine in its modern history, a result of the disastrous . Mao Zedong agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.
China ended its strict one-child policy — imposed in . The 1980s amid fears of overpopulation — in 2016 and began. Allowing couples to have three children in 2021.
But it has failed to reverse the demographic decline of a country that has long relied on. Its large workforce as a driver of economic growth.
“China cannot rely on . The demographic dividend as a structural driver of economic growth,” he added.
“Economic growth must rely more . On productivity growth, which is driven by government policy.”
‘I will not be a mother’
Reports of population declines on s censored internet have trended. With some expressing fear for the country’s future.
“Without children, states and nations have no future. Read one comment on the Twitter-like Weibo service.
“Having children is also a social responsibility. Reads another comment from a well-known “Patriot” influencer.
But others point to the rising cost of living and the difficulty of raising children in modern
“I love my mom, I won’t be a mom,” said one .
“No one cares why we don’t want to have (children) and get married,” said another. China
Many local authorities have already introduced measures to encourage couples to have children.
For example, the southern megacity of . Shenzhen now offers a birth bonus and allowance until the child turns three.
Couples who have . Their first child receive 3,000 yuan ($444), rising to 10,000 yuan for their third child. China
In the country’s east. The city of Jinan has offered a monthly stipend of 600 yuan for couples with a second child since January 1.
Xiujian Peng, a researcher at the University of Victoria in Australia, told AFP that. Chinese people are “getting used to . Smaller families because of the decades-old one-child policy”.
“The Chinese government needs to . Find effective policies to encourage childbearing, otherwise, fertility will decline further,” he added.
‘a genuine concern’
And analysts argue more needs to be done. China
“A comprehensive policy package. That covers childbearing, parenting and education to reduce child-rearing costs. Researcher Peng told AFP.
“Women’s job insecurity after giving birth should be addressed.”
Independent demographer He Yafu also points to a “decreasing number of women of. Childbearing age, falling by 5 million per year between 2016 and 2021” – . A consequence of population ageing.
China’s population could decline by an average of 1.1 percent per year, according to a study by . The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences that was updated last year and shared with AFP.
China could have 587 million inhabitants in 2100. less than half of today’s, according to the most pessimistic estimates of. that group of demographers.
And India is set to overtake. China as the world’s most populous country this year, according to the United Nations.
“A shrinking and aging population will be a real concern for ” Peng said.
This will have a profound impact on economy from now to 2100.”