China’s first population drop in six decades sounds the alarm about the demographic crisis

China's first population drop in six decades sounds the alarm about the demographic crisis
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BEIJING/HONG KONG, Jan 17 (Reuters) – China’s population fell last year for the first time in six decades, a historic turnaround that is expected to usher in a long period of decline in the number of citizens with profound implications. for your economy. and the world.

The country’s National Bureau of Statistics reported a drop of about 850,000 people for a population of 1,411,750 million in 2022, marking the first decline since 1961, the final year of China’s Great Famine.

That possibly makes India the most populous nation in the world. UN experts last year predicted that India would have a population of 1.412 million by 2022, though they did not expect the South Asian nation to overtake China until this year.

However, India only collects population figures every 10 years and its last census, originally scheduled for 2021, was delayed due to the pandemic.

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In the long term, UN experts forecast China’s population to shrink by 109 million by 2050, more than triple the decline from their previous forecast in 2019.

That has caused national demographers to lament that China will get old before it gets rich, slowing the economy as incomes fall and government debt mounts due to rising health and welfare costs.

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

He added that the reduction in the country’s labor force and the drop in the weight of manufacturing would further exacerbate high prices and high inflation in the United States and Europe.

“Economic growth will have to rely more on productivity growth,” added Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

Kang Yi, head of the national statistics office, dismissed concerns about population decline, telling reporters that “general labor supply still exceeds demand.”

China’s birth rate last year was just 6.77 births per 1,000 people, down from a rate of 7.52 births in 2021 and marking the lowest birth rate on record.

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The number of Chinese women of childbearing age, which the government defines as 25 to 35 years old, fell by about 4 million, Kang said.

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


Much of the population recession is the result of China’s one-child policy between 1980 and 2015, as well as skyrocketing education costs that have discouraged many Chinese from having more than one child or even having one at all.

The one-child policy and the traditional preference for boys have also created a deep gender imbalance. The latest data shows China with around 722 million men compared to 690 million women. The imbalance, which is more pronounced in rural areas, has caused fewer families to be formed in recent years.

The data was the top trending topic on Chinese social media after the figures were released on Tuesday. A hashtag, “#Is it really important to have offspring?” It had hundreds of millions of views.

“The fundamental reason why women do not want to have children lies not in themselves, but in the fact that society and men do not take responsibility for raising children. For women who give birth, this leads to serious decreased quality of life. and spiritual life,” posted a netizen with the username Joyful Ned.

Chinese netizens have also previously complained pressure on newlyweds to have children as soon as possible, reporting regular calls from their local government asking when they can expect a pregnancy.

China’s strict zero-COVID policies that were in place for three years have caused additional damage to the country’s demographic outlook, population experts have said.

Local governments have implemented since 2021 measures to encourage people to have more babies, including tax breaks, longer maternity leave, and housing allowances. President Xi Jinping also said in October that the government would enact more supportive policies.

The measures so far, however, have done little to stop the long-term trend.

Online searches for baby carriages on China’s Baidu search engine fell 17% in 2022 and 41% since 2018, while searches for baby bottles have fallen by more than a third since 2018. By contrast, Nursing home searches have increased eightfold in the past year.

The opposite is happening in India, where Google Trends shows a 15% year-over-year increase in baby bottle searches in 2022, while crib searches have nearly quintupled.

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Reporting by Albee Zhang in Beijing and Farah Master in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Kevin Yao and Ella Cao in Beijing and Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi; Edited by Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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