China’s population decline accelerates

Beijing is now scrambling to boost falling birth rates through subsidies and pro-fertility propaganda. — AFP

Beijing: China’s population decline accelerated in 2023, official data showed yesterday, extending a downward streak after more than six decades of growth as the country battles a looming demographic crisis.

Once the world’s most populous country, China was overtaken by India last year, with Beijing now scrambling to boost falling birth rates through subsidies and pro-fertility propaganda.

“By the end of 2023, the national population was 1,409.67 million, a decrease of 2.08 million over that at the end of 2022,” Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said yesterday.

Last year’s decline was more than double the fall reported for 2022, when the country lost 850,000 people as its population shrank for the first time since 1960.

“In 2023, the number of births was 9.02 million with a birth rate of 6.39 per thousand,” the NBS said yesterday, down from 9.56 million births in 2022.

China ended its strict “one-child policy”, imposed in the 1980s amid overpopulation fears, in 2016 and started letting couples have three children in 2021.

But that has failed to reverse the demographic decline for a country that has long relied on its vast workforce as a driver of economic growth.

Many blame falling birth rates on the soaring cost of living, as well as the growing number of women going into the workforce and seeking higher education.

“The trend of China’s population decline is basically impossible to reverse,” He Yafu, an independent Chinese demographer, said. — AFP

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