For the first time in over 60 years, China's population is declining

Eva Deschamps / January 17, 2023

In 2022, China recorded more deaths than births. This inevitably led to a population decline, the first time since the early 1960s that this country of nearly 1.5 billion people has experienced such a decline. A total of 9.56 million births were recorded last year, which did not compensate for the 10.41 million deaths, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced in a report. China's population has therefore fallen by about 850,000 people in 2022.


This fall is expected to be sustained over several decades, according to many demographers, which will have significant consequences for the economy, society and the pension system.


The population decline is the first since 1960-1961, when a terrible famine, which began in 1959, killed tens of millions of people, mainly as a result of the mistakes of the "Great Leap Forward" economic policy.


This drop in 2022 is explained in particular by the cost of living, which has risen sharply, by the higher level of education of women, which delays pregnancies, and by the lack of desire among the younger generation to have a child.


The fertility rate has plummeted to 1.15 children per woman by 2021 - far below the replacement level of 2.1.


Coupled with aging, the decline in population, especially the number of working people, is expected to have a profound impact on China's economy for several decades.


Labor costs are expected to rise, eroding the competitiveness of China's workforce, and the pressure on working people to provide care for the elderly will increase dramatically.


Many local authorities have already launched measures to encourage couples to have children. The southern metropolis of Shenzhen has been offering birth bonuses of up to 10,000 yuan (1,370 euros) and allowances until the child is three years old.


Shandong province (east) gives 158 days of maternity leave (60 more than the national norm), starting with the first child.


China could have only 587 million inhabitants in 2100, according to the most pessimistic projections of a study of the Academy of Social Sciences of Shanghai, updated last year and whose data were transmitted to AFP.

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