China’s population has declined for the first time since 1961 as the national birth rate fell to a record low of 6.77 births for every 1,000 people last year, media reports said on Tuesday.
With China’s population decline, India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country this year, according to the United Nations.
The South China Morning Post reported that the national birth rate for 2022 fell to a record low in China.
Deaths outnumbered births in China as its overall population plummeted by 850,000 people – to 1.4118 billion in 2022, down from 1.4126 billion a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The national death rate was 7.37 per thousand last year, putting the national growth rate at negative 0.6 per thousand people in the country currently going through a Covid crisis that killed nearly 60,000 people in about a month’s time.
“China’s population declined the first time since 1961. The population will likely trend down from here in the coming years. This is very important, with implications for potential growth and domestic demand,” Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, was quoted as saying.
The report said that the population growth had been slowing since 2016.
In 2021, China eased birth restrictions to allow couples to have three children, entitling them to childcare and other benefits. Shenzhen is among the latest cities to incentivise childbirth via cash handouts.
The UN also expects China’s population to drop to 1.313 billion by 2050 and fall below 800 million by 2100.
However, as the number of new births fall, China’s ageing crisis is deepening.
The country had 280.04 million people aged over 60 at the end of 2022, up from 267.36 million people or 18.9 per cent of the population at the end of 2021.
China’s working-age population — those between 16 and 59 years old — stood at 875.56 million at the end of 2022, representing 62 per cent of the population, down from 62.5 per cent a year earlier.
Without proper change, the ageing population will have a long-term effect on economic growth, said the report.