China’s population has experienced a notable decline for the second consecutive year, according to official data released by Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The population decrease of 2.08 million at the end of 2023 surpassed the previous year’s fall of 850,000, marking a significant acceleration in the country’s demographic shift.
Once the world’s most populous country, China faced a historic shift last year as India overtook its population. The latest data reveals the urgency in Beijing’s response to this downward trend, with efforts aimed at addressing a looming demographic crisis through various measures, including subsidies and pro-fertility propaganda.
“In 2023, the number of births was 9.02 million with a birth rate of 6.39 per thousand,” reported the NBS on Wednesday, indicating a decline from 9.56 million births in 2022. China’s efforts to reverse the demographic decline include the relaxation of the strict “one-child policy” in 2016, allowing couples to have up to three children starting in 2021.
Despite these policy changes, the demographic decline persists, posing challenges to a nation that traditionally relied on a large workforce to drive economic growth. Factors contributing to the falling birth rates include the high cost of living and a growing trend of women entering the workforce and pursuing higher education.
Demographer He Yafu, an independent expert, expressed skepticism about the possibility of reversing the population decline, stating, “Even if fertility is encouraged, it is impossible for China’s fertility rate to rise to replacement level because now the younger generation has fundamentally changed its conception of fertility and is generally unwilling to have more children.”
To address the economic implications of a shrinking working-age population, He suggested that the government should implement additional incentives, such as childrearing stipends, the development of universal child-care services, and an increase in the enrollment rate of children under the age of three in nursery schools.
The latest population data underscores the complexity of China’s demographic challenges and the need for multifaceted solutions to navigate the changing dynamics of the nation’s population landscape. As Beijing grapples with these issues, the world watches closely to understand the long-term impact on China’s social and economic fabric.
Sources By Agencies