CHINA: China’s population has declined for the first time in 60 years, with a record-low national birth rate of 6.77 births per 1,000 women.
With 1.4118 billion people, the population in 2022 dropped by 850,000 from 2021, says the National Bureau of Statistics. It counts only the populace of mainland China, excluding Hong Kong, Macao, the sovereign state of Taiwan, and foreign inhabitants.
Negative population growth in China
China’s National Bureau of Statistics, which issued the data on Tuesday, also noted a decline in the birth rate in 2022 from 7.52 in 2021.
For the first time ever, deaths also exceeded births last year. 7.37 fatalities per 1,000 inhabitants, up from 7.18 the year before, was China’s highest death rate since 1976.
Though China scrapped its rigorous “one child policy” in 2016 and allowed couples to have three children in 2021, the change in the law did not stop the country’s population drop.
It has, however, entered what one official termed an “era of negative population growth,” seven years after the one-child restriction was scrapped.
For a number of years, the government of China has been frantically trying to boost birth rates in order to stop the looming demographic issue brought on by an ageing population.
The financial and social burdens of raising children have been sought to be lessened by subsidies and tax advantages.
A second or third child’s parents may receive cash benefits in some provinces or towns. Incentives worth a total of 37,500 yuan ($5,550) for a family with three children were announced by the city of Shenzhen last week.
But after decades of a one-child policy that penalised couples for having more than one kid and the increased cost of contemporary life, resistance still exists among couples.
China is expected to be overtaken by India as the world’s most populous country. A demographic catastrophe had been predicted by earlier official data, which would eventually reduce China’s labour force and increase the expense of healthcare and other social security benefits.
The population of China has been rising at its slowest rate in decades, according to results from a once-a-decade census released in 2021. Through 2023, some experts predict China’s population will continue to decline.
Yue Su, principal economist of the Economist Intelligence Unit, stated that the pandemic’s long-term consequences and the recent lockdowns could result in even lower birth rates.
“This trend is going to continue and possibly get worse after COVID,” she said. “The high youth unemployment rate and weaknesses in income expectations could further delay marriage and childbirth plans, dragging down the number of newborn babies,” she concluded.
She said that Covid infections across the nation will certainly cause the death rate to be greater than pre-pandemic levels in 2023. Since abandoning its “zero-COVID” policy last month, China has noticed a rise in infections.
Populations have decreased in other East Asian nations, including Japan and South Korea. Over the years, China’s contentious one-child policy, which was implemented in 1979 to reduce population growth, has had a significant impact on population trends.
Families that disregarded the regulations were penalised and, in some circumstances, even fired from their jobs. The strategy had also resulted in forced abortions and a reportedly skewed gender ratio in the 1980s in a culture that historically favoured males over females.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called boosting birth rates a top priority in October 2022. In response to the ageing population of the nation, Xi declared at the once every five years Communist Party Congress in Beijing that his administration will “pursue a proactive national policy.”
However, some experts believe China’s population decline is not immediately detrimental. Paul Cheung, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a former chief statistician for Singapore, claimed that China has “plenty of manpower” and “a lot of lead time” to handle the demographic crisis.
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