China’s population falls for first time since 1961

China’s population has fallen for the first time in 60 years, with the national birth rate hitting a record low – 6.77 births per 1,000 people.

The population in 2022 – 1.4118 billion – fell by 850,000 from 2021.

China’s birth rate has been declining for years, prompt­ing a slew of policies to try to slow the trend.

But seven years after scrap­ping the one-child policy, it has entered what one official described as an “era of nega­tive population growth”.

The birth rate in 2022 was also down from 7.52 in 2021, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, which released the figures on Tuesday.

In comparison, in 2021, the United States recorded 11.06 births per 1,000 people, and the United Kingdom, 10.08 births. The birth rate for the same year in India, which is poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous country, was 16.42.

Deaths also outnumbered births for the first time last year in China. The country logged its highest death rate since 1976 – 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, up from 7.18 the previous year.

Earlier, government data had heralded a demographic crisis, which would in the long run shrink China’s labour force and increase the burden on health care and other social security costs.

Results from a once-a-de­cade census announced in 2021 showed China’s popu­lation growing at its slowest pace in decades. Populations are also shrinking and ageing in other East Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea.

“This trend is going to continue and perhaps worsen after Covid,” says Yue Su, principal economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit. —BBC

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