China’s population decline persists with record low birth rate in 2023

National Bureau of Statistics reported drop of 2.08m, or 0.15%, bringing total population to 1.409b

An elderly man pushes a wheelchair as he walks at a park in Beijing, China January 16, 2024. —Reuters

China’s population has declined for the second consecutive year, marking a significant demographic shift with profound implications for the nation’s economic trajectory, Reuters reported. 

The National Bureau of Statistics reported a drop of 2.08 million people, or 0.15%, bringing the total population to 1.409 billion in 2023. This decline follows a record-low birth rate and a surge in COVID-19 deaths following the lifting of strict lockdowns.

The COVID-19 surge contributed to a 6.6% increase in total deaths, reaching 11.1 million, the highest death rate since 1974. New births fell by 5.7% to 9.02 million, with a record-low birth rate of 6.39 births per 1,000 people.

China’s birth rate has been decreasing for decades due to factors such as the one-child policy (1980-2015) and rapid urbanisation, making child-rearing more expensive. 

Chinas population decline persists with record low birth rate in 2023

Economic challenges, including high youth unemployment, falling wages for white-collar workers, and a property sector crisis, further deterred family planning in 2023.

The data raises concerns about China’s economic prospects, indicating diminishing growth potential due to a shrinking workforce and consumer base. As elderly care costs rise, and retirement benefits strain local governments, the challenges of an ageing population loom large.

Chinas population decline persists with record low birth rate in 2023

The ageing population is a growing concern, with those aged 60 and overreaching 296.97 million in 2023, comprising 21.1% of the total population. The strain on the pension system is anticipated to lead to financial challenges, with projections indicating a shortfall by 2035.

Efforts by local governments to encourage childbirth through measures like tax deductions and longer maternity leave face challenges, prompting calls for a unified nationwide family subsidy scheme. The reluctance to have children is influenced by factors such as high childcare costs, job market uncertainty, gender discrimination, and traditional family expectations.

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