On Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that China’s population growth rate had fallen to its lowest level in six decades, with births barely exceeding the number of deaths in 2021. Over the past year, the government has made significant efforts to increase population growth and alleviate a demographic crisis, however, they have been largely unsuccessful. In China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people. During the same period, China recorded 10.14 million deaths, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand people.
The recent results are added to the census of last May, which takes place once every ten years. The census revealed an average annual increase of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported between 2000 and 2010. China is facing a demographic crisis, with forecasts of negative population growth looming. Figures on Monday showed that the proportion of people aged over 60 in China fell from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%. Beijing has already announced major reforms aimed at addressing the decline, including replacing the two-child policy introduced in 2016 and raising the retirement age. China’s high cost of living, delayed marriages and social immobility are frequently cited as factors contributing to young adults’ reluctance to have children. To address these factors, Beijing has banned expensive tutoring and pledged to improve access to childcare and maternity leave. However, the root cause could be much deeper than expected.