China records Population Decline for second straight year

China records Population Decline for second straight year By Fathimath Nasli - January 18, 2024
China records Population Decline for second straight year

Data indicated a population of 1.409 billion at the conclusion of 2023

China's population has declined for a second consecutive year, underscoring concerns about the future growth of the world's second-largest economy.

Data released on Wednesday indicated a population of 1.409 billion at the conclusion of 2023, reflecting a decline of 2.08 million from 2022.

This recent decrease is twice as much as the previous year, which marked the first population reduction in six decades. Experts assert that this decline is anticipated due to the expanding urban class and a historically low birth rate in the country.

Beijing announced on Wednesday that the birth rate has decreased to 6.39 per 1,000 people, aligning with other advanced East Asian nations such as Japan and South Korea. China has witnessed diminishing birth rates for several decades, stemming from the controversial one-child policy implemented in the 1980s to curb overpopulation. The government lifted the policy in 2015 to counteract the declining population, introducing various incentives such as subsidies and payments to encourage family formation. In 2021, the limit was further relaxed, allowing couples to have up to three children.

Despite these policy adjustments, their impact has been limited, with young individuals in modern cities citing impediments like the high cost of living and career priorities, particularly in the aftermath of a three-year period affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 31-year-old woman in Beijing, Wang Chengyi, shared her perspective, stating that while she and her partner aspire to have a child, financial constraints prevent them from doing so at present. Wang emphasized the need to save money for three more years, factoring in expenses such as school costs.

Experts on Wednesday cited the impact of the pandemic in accelerating the decline in new births. However, they suggested that the underlying economic issues were a greater factor.

Chinese internet users also pointed out cost pressures, emphasizing that improved living conditions and greater security would likely lead to more people wanting to have children.

China is reportedly following a pattern observed in other countries that have undergone rapid deindustrialization, albeit at a swift pace. Professor Stuart Gietel-Basten, a population policy expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, noted that China's low fertility rates are contributing to the stagnation or decline in population—a trend expected to persist.

In 2023, China faced economic challenges, including a widespread property crisis, declining consumer spending, and a record level of youth joblessness following the pandemic. Annual data revealed one of the slowest GDP growth rates in over three decades, expanding at 5.2% to reach 126 trillion yuan ($17.5tn; £13.8tn) in 2023. This marked the weakest performance since 1990, excluding pandemic years, which had a record-low 3% GDP growth rate in 2022.

On Wednesday, China reported a youth unemployment rate of 14.1% for December, down from a peak of 21.3% in June. The latest population data reinforces concerns about the economy, as China has traditionally relied on an aging workforce as a key economic driver. The country is under increasing pressure on healthcare and pension systems as the retiree population is projected to grow by 60% to 400 million by 2035.

Experts believe that China has the time and resources to manage the workforce transition. As the country shifts from industrialization to the service sector, a more educated, skilled, and healthier population emerges, seeking different job opportunities. The government, aware of these changes, has reportedly planned for this transition over the past decade, and it is expected to continue in this direction.

Once the world's most populous nation, China was surpassed by India in population last year, according to the UN, with India's population standing at 1.425 billion.

Source: BBC

By Fathimath Nasli - January 18, 2024

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