China’s population declines first time in 60 years

China, the world’s most populous country has seen its population decline for the first time in 60 years, as policymakers worry that the trend could hurt the world’s second largest economy.

The numbers have been declining for the past five years from a high of 18.83 million in 2016 to 17.65 million in 2017, 15.23 million in 2018, 14.65 million in 2019, 12 million in 2020 and 10.62 million in 2021, with an average annual reduction of 1.64 million.

The total fertility rate (number of births per woman) dropped from 1.77 in 2016 to 1.15 last year, making China one of the countries with the lowest fertility rate.

The birth rate in 2022 was also down from 7.52 in 2021, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

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

The authorities imposed a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015, later switching to a three-child policy, acknowledging the nation is on the brink of a demographic downturn.

“We will establish a policy system to boost birth rates and pursue a proactive national strategy in response to population ageing,” Xi told some 2,300 delegates in a speech opening the once-in-five-year Communist Party Congress in Beijing.

Today, the newborns are mainly the children of post-90s generation born 25 to 30 years ago. Since China experienced a sharp reduction in births and fertility in the 1990s, when post-90s become mothers, their children would be proportionately fewer.

The number of reproductive women aged 15 to 49 declined at a rate of 8 million per year over 2016-2021. This is a major cause of the rapid reduction of births and fertility in the past five years.

China is the most populous territory today with 1.4 billion people, closely followed by India at 1.38 billion then the United States coming in at far third with 331 million people.

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