China records first population decline in 60 years | CNN affairs

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CNN

China’s population shrank in 2022 for the first time in more than 60 years, another milestone in the country’s deepening demographic crisis with significant implications for the slowing economy.

The population will fall to 1.411 billion in 2022, down some 850,000 people from the previous year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced during a Tuesday briefing on annual data.

Analysts said the drop was the first since 1961 during the great famine caused by former leader Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.

“The population is likely to go down in the coming years. This is very important, with implications for potential growth and domestic demand,” said Zhiwei Zhang, president and chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

The birth rate also fell to a record low of 6.77 births per 1,000, down from 7.52 a year earlier and the lowest level since the founding of Communist China in 1949. About 9.56 million babies were born, compared to 10.62 million by 2021 – despite a government push to encourage more married couples to have children.

The new data came along with the announcement of one of China’s worst annual economic performances in nearly half a century, with the economy growing at just 3% this year – well below the government’s target – underscoring the huge economic challenges facing the country. is confronted as its workforce. power is shrinking and the retiree demographic is growing.

It also follows a UN forecast last year that India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous country by 2023.

The demographic crisis in China, which is expected to have an increasing impact on growth in the coming years, has been a major concern for policymakers.

Beijing scrapped its decades-long and highly controversial “one child” policy in 2015 after realizing the restriction had contributed to a rapidly aging population and a shrinking workforce that could seriously damage the country’s economic and social stability.

To halt the declining birth rate, the Chinese government announced in 2015 that married couples would be allowed to have two children. But after a brief rebound in 2016, the national birth rate has continued to fall.

Policymakers further relaxed limits on births in 2021, allowing three children, and stepping up efforts to encourage larger families, including through a multi-agency plan released last year to strengthen maternity leave and tax deductions and other benefits to families. But those efforts have yet to bear fruit amid changing gender norms, the high cost of living and education, and looming economic uncertainty.

Many young people choose to marry later or decide not to have children at all, while decades of single births have led to the much-discussed social phenomenon of families with one adult child as the sole caregiver for two parents – leading the post-aged generation eighty is under pressure. who are expected to care for elderly parents as well as raise young children.

The years of the pandemic added to that stress, as Covid-19 and the Communist Party’s stern response to the outbreak hit the economy and sparked deep political frustration, with some young people rallying behind the slogan “We are the last generation after Shanghai’s punishing two-month incarceration.

Tackling demographic challenges has remained a top political priority, with Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledging to “improve population development strategy” and ease economic pressures on families in a key speech to kick off China’s five-year party congress in October.

“[We will] establish a policy system to increase birth rates and reduce costs of pregnancy and childbirth, parenting and schooling,” Xi said.

“We will pursue a proactive national strategy in response to the aging population, develop programs and services for aged care, and provide better services to older people living alone.”

China’s elderly make up one-fifth of its 1.4 billion people, and the number of those 60 and older grew to 280 million last year — or 19.8% of the population — officials said Tuesday. That’s an increase of about 13 million people age 60 and older from 2021.

The aging of China’s population follows a similar trajectory that is playing out in the developed economies of Asia.

Japan and South Korea have also seen their birth rates fall and populations are aging and beginning to shrink alongside their economic development, posing challenges for their governments in supporting a large older demographic while coping with a dwindling workforce.

China’s working-age population peaked in 2014 and is projected to shrink to less than a third of that peak by 2100, while the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to largely continue to rise and China’s working-age population age by 2080. according to analysis published by the World Economic Forum last year.

The latest national data shows that the number of working-age adults has continued to decline – it made up 62% of the population by the end of 2022, down 0.5% from the previous year, with analysts pointing to major challenges ahead.

“The Chinese economy is entering a critical transition phase, no longer able to rely on an abundant, cost-competitive workforce to drive industrialization and growth,” said HSBC chief economist Frederic Neumann.

“As the supply of workers begins to shrink, productivity growth will need to pick up to support the economy’s heady pace of expansion.”

Neumann added that while China’s economic growth is likely to continue to outpace developed markets in the coming years, it is likely to slow “as productivity gains cannot fully offset the drag of a shrinking workforce.”



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