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Three years after scrapping one-child policy, China records lowest birth rate in 60 years

A total of 15.23 million babies were born on the Chinese mainland in 2018, a drop by about 2 million from that of 2017, China’s national bureau of statistics (NBS) said on Monday.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2019 23:43 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,demography,ageing population
China recorded its lowest birth rate in 2018, three years after it reversed its one-child policy in a bid to tackle the ageing demography of the country’s population (File Photo)(AP)

Births in China had dropped to the lowest level in nearly 60 years in 2018, official data showed on Monday, indicating that the scrapping of the one-child policy three years ago has had little impact on the country’s ageing demography.

A total of 15.23 million babies were born on the Chinese mainland in 2018, a drop by about 2 million from that of 2017, China’s national bureau of statistics (NBS) said on Monday.

“The population growth rate dropped from 532 to 381 per 100,000 population from 2017 to 2018, NBS figures show. The rate is the lowest since 1961,” state media reported.

The falling birthrate, though expected, will add to the worries about a slowing economy – a shrinking pool of workforce and the costs of maintaining an aging population.

The total population on the Chinese mainland reached 1.395 billion, an increase of 5.3 million year-on-year.

“The number of workforce, or those between 16 and 59 years old, stood at around 897 million, accounting for 64.3 percent of the total population. The number of people at 60 years old or above exceeded 249 million, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total population,” the NBS data said.

Experts had already predicted that the number of births would fall as the majority of couples decide against going for a second child because of rising living costs, especially that of education.

The signs were already there.

“With 630,000 fewer babies born in 2017 than the year before, China, the world’s most populous country, is facing a gloomy demographic situation, with many experts doubting the efficacy of the country’s two-child policy,” People’s Daily, the Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpiece, had reported last January.

The falling rate also raises the question of whether China’s infamous one-child policy, strictly implemented since the late 1970s, was withdrawn too late.

“Although the national data for the birth of newborns have not been publicised yet, data revealed by local health departments showed that the number of newborns in 2018 decreased by at least 15 percent from the previous year,” He Yafu, a demographer and author of a book on the impact of China’s population policy, told the tabloid Global Times earlier this month.

“The change was manifested evidently in East China’s Shandong, the province with the country’s highest fertility rate in 2017. For example, the number of newborns in Yantai in the first half of 2018 was 26,902, a decrease of 16 percent from the same period last year,” the city’s health department told GT.

“Even higher drops were seen in other cities like Qingdao and Weifang in Shandong Province. Separately, other provinces like Jiangsu, Guizhou and Hubei also witnessed a drop in the number of newborns in the first half of 2018,” news site 21jingji.com reported.

First Published: Jan 21, 2019 17:51 IST