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China’s population shrinks for first time in over 60 years

Photo for representation

China’s population has decreased for the first time in more than 60 years, marking a watershed in the history of the world’s most populous nation.

The mainland Chinese population stood at around 1,411,750,000 at the end of 2022, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported Tuesday, a decrease of 850,000 from the end of the previous year.

The number of births was 9.56 million, the NBS said, while the number of deaths stood at 10.41 million. Men also continued to outnumber women in China by 722.06 million to 689.69 million.

The new figures mark the first fall in China’s population since 1961, when the country battled the worst famine in its modern history, caused by Mao Zedong’s disastrous agricultural policy known as the Great Leap Forward.

China’s birth rate last year was just 6.77 births per 1,000 people, down from a rate of 7.52 births in 2021 and marking the lowest birth rate on record.

Though China stopped its one-child policy in 2016 and in 2021 allowed couples to have three children, the country has not succeeded in increasing its birth rate.

China has long been the world’s most populous nation, but is expected to soon be overtaken by India.

Demographers point out that the decline in population means that China will get old before it gets rich, slowing the economy as revenues drop and government debt increases due to soaring health and welfare costs.

“China’s demographic and economic outlook is much bleaker than expected. China will have to adjust its social, economic, defense and foreign policies,” a Reuters report cited demographer Yi Fuxian as saying.

However, the head of the NBS, Kang Yi, said people should not worry about China’s population decline as the country’s overall labour supply still exceeds demand.