China’s Population Has Fallen For The First Time In Decades – A Historic Shift

In 2022, China’s population fell for the first time in six decades, signaling the start of a long era of population decline with far-reaching implications for the country’s economy and the rest of the world.

The National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that the total population decreased by 850,000 in 2022 to 1.41175 billion, the first dip since the 1960s.

“This is a truly historic turning point, an onset of a long-term and irreversible population decline,” said Wang Feng, an expert on Chinese demographic change at the University of California, Irvine.

The decrease officially began last year, when deaths outnumbered births, although some demographers believe the trend started earlier.

China’s strict zero-Covid policy for coronavirus prevention is commonly regarded as hastening the country’s birth rate since couples postponed or chose against having children amid the health crisis and economic recession. Last year, 9.56 million babies were born, a decrease from 10.62 million the previous year.

The 2022 birth rate was the lowest in more than seven decades, with 6.77 newborns for every 1,000 people, down from 10.41 in 2019. Kang Yi, head of the NBS, stated that the number of women of childbearing age, defined as those aged 15 to 49, decreased by more than 4 million in 2022.

The drop may be traced back to Beijing’s one-child policy, which was implemented in 1980 and limited the number of children a couple could have to less than the 2.1 required for a country’s population to stay stable.

Authorities repealed the ban in 2016, replacing it with a two-child restriction, but the number of births has decreased yearly since then. In 2022, the national death rate was 7.37 per 1,000 persons, the highest since 1970 and an increase from 7.09 in 2019.

Fuxian Yi, a demographer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, projected that China’s population started to shrink in 2018, but the drop was masked by “faulty demographic data.”

“China is facing a demographic crisis that far exceeds the imagination of Chinese authorities and the international community,” Yi said, noting that the trend would act as a long-term drag on the country’s property market, a crucial engine of growth.

“China cannot rely on the demographic dividend as a structural driver for economic growth,” said Zhiwei Zhang, president, and chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. “Economic growth will have to depend more on productivity growth, driven by government policies.”

Some economists suggest that when the number of people decreases, the rise of automation will offset rising labor costs. According to Kang of the NBS, China’s population reduction should not be cause for concern because labor supply continues to exceed demand. Moreover, the long-term worker decline will be compensated as “labor quality improves” and education levels grow.

However, most analysts concur that the nation’s social welfare and healthcare systems are not set up to handle an aging population.

By 2050, China’s population would drop to 1.31 billion, and by the end of the century, to 767 million. China will be 3.5 times more significant than the United States in 2050 when it is projected to have 375 million people. Its current size is 4.7 times that of the USA.

The UN projected that India would surpass China as the world’s most populous nation this year. There are currently 1.4066 billion people living in India.

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