China’s population in 2022 shrank for the first time in over 60 years as the world’s most populous nation sees an aging society and falling birth rate.
The country’s population stood at around 1,411,750,000 as 2022 ended — a decline of 850,000 from the end of 2021 — Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported on Tuesday.
A total of 9.56 million births were recorded against 10.41 million deaths, the NBS said at a briefing.
This is the first time China’s population has shrunk since 1961 when the Asian nation witnessed the worst famine in its modern history, blamed on the catastrophic Mao Zedong agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.
Effects of one-child policy
The bureau added that men continued to outnumber women as the male-to-female ratio stood at 722.06 million to 689.69 million, a result of China’s strict one-child policy that only officially ended in 2016 and a traditional preference for male offspring to carry forward the family name.
After abandoning the one-child policy, Beijing began allowing couples to have as many as three children in 2021. However, the move has not reversed the demographic downturn.
The expense of raising children in China’s cities is often cited as a cause behind the failure.
In some parts of the country, local authorities have launched measures to encourage couples to have children.
In Shenzhen, a megacity in the south of China, there is a birth bonus and allowances are paid until the child is three years old.
A couple who has had their first baby will receive 3,000 yuan (€410, $443), a figure that rises to 10,000 yuan for their third.
In Jinan, a monthly stipend of 600 yuan has been paid since January 1 for couples that have a second child.
In the long run, UN experts see China’s population shrinking by 109 million by 2050, more than three times the decline of their previous forecast in 2019.
China is expected to soon be overtaken by India as the most populous nation on the planet, if it has not already.
Estimates have shown India’s population at more than 1.4 billion and continuing to rise.
dvv/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)