China’s population in ‘zero growth’ period, birth rate falls for 5th year

China recorded 10.62 million births in 2021, or only 7.5 per 1,000 people, the national bureau of statistics said. It marked the lowest growth rate since the founding of new China under the Communist Party of China in 1949.
Children play in Beijing. China’s population increased by less than half a million in 2021, recording a drop in births for the fifth consecutive year. (AP)
Children play in Beijing. China’s population increased by less than half a million in 2021, recording a drop in births for the fifth consecutive year. (AP)
Updated on Jan 17, 2022 05:02 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

China’s population increased by less than half a million in 2021, recording a drop in births for the fifth consecutive year, latest national data showed on Monday with officials saying that the country’s population has entered a “zero growth” period.

China recorded 10.62 million births in 2021, or only 7.5 births per 1,000 people, the national bureau of statistics (NBS) said. It marked the lowest growth rate since the founding of new China under the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949.

In demographic terms, new births managed to outnumber deaths with the population growing by 480,000 to 1.4126 billion.

The number of deaths recorded in 2021 was 10.14 million. New births in 2021 dropped 11.6% from 12.02 million in 2020; it had registered a sharp 18% plunge that year from 14.65 million in 2019.

Ning Jizhe, head of the NBS, said multiple factors were responsible for China’s falling population.

A primary reason is the continued decrease in the number of women of childbearing age, as 2021 saw about 5 million fewer women of childbearing age between 15 and 49 than in the previous year.

“Other factors included delaying marriage and births due to the fertility concept of couples and the pandemic,” Ning was quoted as saying by state media.

Ning said at the end of 2021, the working-age population aged 16-59 was 882 million, accounting for 62.5% of the total population; the population aged 60 and above was 267 million, accounting for 18.9% of the total population, and the population aged 65 and above was 200 million, accounting for the total population 14.2%.

“The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population ageing is clearly faster than expected,” Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, was quoted as saying by the AFP.

“It also indicates China’s potential growth is likely slowing faster than expected,” he said.

Liang Jianzhang, an economics professor at Peking University, told the Global Times that it is necessary, effective and important to further encourage fertility and increase the population to improve China’s economy.

China, the most populous country in the world, is burdened with an ageing citizenry despite scrapping the decades-old one-child policy in 2016.

China’s population is growing at its slowest pace in decades with the country adding only 72 million people in the past decade, the once-in-a-decade Census data showed in May, 2021.

In May, China allowed married couples to have up to three children, in a major shift from the limit of two children per couple following a worrying decline in births confirmed in new Census data.

“The three-child policy and supporting measures will be conducive to improving China’s demographic structure and implementing the national strategy of actively responding to population ageing,” the Chinese government said about the decision.

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