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For the first time in 60 years, China’s population has declined, with the national birth rate reaching a record low of 6.77 births per 1,000 women.
The population in 2022 will be 1.4118 billion, down 850,000 from 2021.
For years, China’s birth rate has been decreasing, prompting a flurry of efforts to slow the decline.
However, seven years after repealing the one-child ban, it has entered a “period of negative population growth,” according to one official.
According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, which revealed the numbers on Tuesday, the birth rate in 2022 was also down from 7.52 in 2021.
Deaths also exceeded births for the first time last year, with China recording its highest mortality rate since 1976 – 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, up from 7.18 in 2006.
Earlier official data had predicted a demographic crisis, which would decrease China’s labour force and increase the load on healthcare and other social security costs in the long run.
The results of a once-decade census, reported in 2021, revealed that China’s population was rising at its slowest rate in decades.
Other affluent Asian economies, such as South Korea and Japan, have been slowed by an ageing population and falling birth rates.
The contentious one-child policy, implemented in 1979 to restrict population growth, has significantly affected China’s population trends throughout the years.
Families who broke the restrictions were penalised and, in some cases, lost their employment. In a culture that has traditionally preferred boys over girls, the policy had also resulted in forced abortions.
In 2016, the restriction was repealed, and married couples were permitted to have two children. In recent years, the Chinese government has also offered tax breaks and improved maternal healthcare, among other incentives, in an effort to reverse or at least moderate the declining birth rate.
However, these measures did not result in a sustained increase in births, according to experts, because policies encouraging childbirth were not supported with efforts to reduce the burden of childcare, such as more help for working moms or increased access to education.
Chinese President Xi Jinping designated increasing birth rates a priority in October 2022. Mr. Xi stated during the once-every-five-year Communist Party Congress in Beijing that his administration will “pursue a proactive national strategy” in response to the country’s population.
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