With nearly one-sixth of the world’s population, China recorded a demographic decline last year for the first time in six decades.
1. Less births, more obits
China has long been the most populous country in the world, with historians dating its demographic superiority somewhere around 221 BC. While the country is home for around 1,4 billion people, China’s population is declining for the first time since 1961. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in 2022, just 9.56 million births were recorded in mainland China, whereas, at the same time, 10.41 million deaths have been recorded. This new social phenomenon results in a net drop of 850,000 people.
The measures taken to boost birth rates have been far too little and too late, and were completely overwhelmed by the impact of Covid-Zero on birth rates.Christopher Beddor, Deputy China research director at Gavekal Dragonomics
China’s population declined for the first time since 1961 due to a plunging birth rate. China’s population in 2022 — 1.41175 billion — fell by 850,000 from 2021, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.https://t.co/roE0Qk9CJE pic.twitter.com/2AZmTiU8sD— Manorama Yearbook (@MM_Yearbook) January 18, 2023
2. Work over children
The impact of the pandemic is not the only reason contributing to a decline in population. Chinese citizens are increasingly against having children due to the high costs of raising a child. Moreover, Chinese women enjoy a higher level of education than in other countries, which means that many women now prioritise their work over having children.
Analysts predict this fall in population to be sustained, perhaps until the end of the century, with severe implications for the Chinese economy and its pension system. The last time the Chinese population dropped was during the tenure of the Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong, particularly during the years 1960-1961 when Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” policy started a famine, causing tens of millions of deaths.
3. India to surpass China
A United Nations (UN) report has already forecast that India is likely to dethrone China as the most populous country in April this year. India is forecast to have almost 1.7 billion people by 2050 compared to China’s expected 1.31 billion. Should these predictions come true, China’s population in 2050 will be 8% smaller than it is today, which The Economist reported to be due to China’s strict family planning rules that have contributed to a birth rate decline.
Today, Chinese families are already allowed to have more than one child and incentives exist in certain regions of the country, however, the average offspring per family remains low. Meanwhile, India’s population is expected to provide more than a sixth of the increase of the world’s working-age population of 15-to-64-year-olds between now and 2050.