As the world's most populous nation faces a looming demographic crisis, official data showed on Tuesday that China's population fell last year for the first time in more than six decades.
As the country's workforce ages, birth rates have dropped to record lows in the nation of 1.4 billion people. Analysts say that this rapid decline could stymie economic growth and put more pressure on already-strained public finances.
According to a report released on Tuesday by Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the population was approximately 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022—a decrease of 850,000 from the end of the previous year.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), there were 9.56 million births and 10.41 million deaths.
The Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong's disastrous agricultural policy, led to the worst famine in China's modern history in 1960, which resulted in a population decline.
China began allowing couples to have three children in 2021 and ended its strict "one-child policy" in 2016 as a result of concerns about overpopulation.
However, that has not stopped the demographic decline.
The slowdown is often attributed to the skyrocketing cost of living as well as the rising number of women entering the workforce and seeking higher education.
According to Xiujian Peng, a researcher at the University of Victoria in Australia, Chinese people are also "getting used to the small family because of the decades-long one-child policy." Xiujian Peng stated this to AFP.
She continued, "The Chinese government must find effective policies to encourage birth, or else fertility will slip even further."
Measures to encourage couples to have children have already been implemented by numerous local authorities.
For instance, the southern megacity of Shenzhen now provides a birth bonus and allowances that are paid until the child reaches the age of three.
When a couple has their first child, they will automatically receive 3,000 yuan ($444), and when they have their third child, they will receive 10,000 yuan.
Since January 1, the city of Jinan in the east of the country has provided couples with a second child with a monthly stipend of 600 yuan.
As a result of the aging of the population, independent demographer He Yafu also mentions "the decline in the number of women of childbearing age, which fell by five million per year between 2016 and 2021."
According to Peng, "a declining and aging population will be a real concern for China."
"From now until 2100, it will have a significant impact on China's economy."
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