In the News

China's population falls for first time since 1961

Geoff Riley

17th January 2023

Will China grow old before she grows rich? For the first time in sixty years and largely due to a steep decline in the birth rate, China's population declined in 2022. The population fell by 850,000 from 2021 hastening the day when India becomes the most populous nation on the planet.

The news is reported here by the BBC.

Reuters has an article here on the policies being introduced in China to address

The Financial Times covers the issue below

Why is China's population starting to fall?

There are several reasons why China's population is expected to start declining in the near future:

  1. Ageing population: China's population is aging rapidly, with an increasing proportion of older adults and a shrinking proportion of young people. This is due to a combination of factors, including the country's one-child policy, which was in place for several decades, and improvements in healthcare and living standards.
  2. Low fertility rate: China's fertility rate is well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, which is necessary to sustain a stable population. This is partly due to the one-child policy, which encouraged many families to have only one child, and partly due to changing social norms and economic pressures that make it difficult for many families to afford more than one child.
  3. Migration: China's rapid economic development has led to increased migration from rural to urban areas, which has resulted in a decline in the population in rural areas and an aging population in urban areas.
  4. Gender imbalance: China has a significant gender imbalance, with more men than women, due to a preference for male children and the practice of selective abortion. This has led to a decline in the number of potential wives and mothers, which will have a negative impact on the country's fertility rate.

All these factors combined are likely to lead to a decline in China's population in the coming years.

Examples of policies in China to raise the birth rate

In recent years, China has implemented several policies aimed at raising its birth rate and addressing the challenges posed by an aging population. Some examples of these policies include:

  1. Two-child policy: In 2016, China ended its decades-long one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child policy, which allows all couples to have two children. This policy is intended to increase the number of births and address the challenges posed by an aging population.
  2. Tax and housing incentives: The Chinese government has also implemented a number of financial incentives to encourage people to have children, including tax breaks and housing subsidies for families with multiple children.
  3. Paid parental leave: China has also introduced a number of measures to support working parents, including paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements. This is aimed at making it easier for parents to balance their work and family responsibilities and therefore have more children.
  4. Education and childcare: China is also investing in education and childcare infrastructure to make it easier for parents to raise their children. This includes building more kindergartens, as well as expanding subsidies for early childhood education.
  5. Relaxing the hukou policy: The hukou system is a household registration system that limits the mobility of people who are not born in a certain city, the Chinese government has been relaxing the hukou policy to allow more migration from rural to urban areas, this can help to increase the birth rate, as more people can afford to have children in cities.

It's worth noting that despite these policies, it may take time for the birth rate to increase and it's uncertain if it will be enough to reverse the trend of population decline in the long-term.

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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