China’s population fell last year for the first time in six decades, a historic turn that is expected to mark the start of a long period of decline in its citizen numbers with profound implications for its economy and the world.
The drop, the worst since 1961, the last year of China’s Great Famine, also lends weight to predictions that India will become the world’s most populous nation this year
China’s population declined by roughly 850,000 to 1.41175 billion at the end of 2022, the country’s National Bureau of Statistics said.
Long-term, United Nations experts see China’s population shrinking by 109 million by 2050, more than triple the decline of their previous forecast in 2019.
That’s caused domestic demographers to lament 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,” said demographer Yi Fuxian.
He added that the country’s shrinking labour force and downturn in manufacturing heft would further exacerbate high prices and high inflation in the United States and Europe
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.
The number of Chinese women of childbearing age, which the government defines as 25 to 35, fell by about 4 million, Kang said.
The death rate, the highest since 1974 during the Cultural Revolution, was 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, which compares with a rate of 7.18 deaths in 2021.