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China has negative population growth in 2022

Posted by on 2023/01/18. Filed under Breaking News,China,Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

China’s population has turned negative for the first time in 60 years, with the world’s most populous country registering 1.41175 million people at the end of December 2022, 850,000 fewer than at the end of the previous year, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday. Experts have predicted a “turning point” in China’s development history and warned of catastrophic consequences from an “unimaginable” demographic crisis.

Yi Fuxian, a demographic sociologist at the University of Wisconsin in the US, said: “The prospects for China’s demographic and economic development are more bleak than people think.” He believes China must change its social security and economic policies. China’s “economic miracle” and its status as the “workshop of the world” were built on a surplus of workers. Now the country faces a labor shortage. “China’s manufacturing sector faces a shortage of human resources and an aging workforce — its industry will shrink faster than Japan’s,” Yi predicts.

According to official statistics, 9.56 million people were born in China in 2022, with a birth rate of 6.77 per thousand. 10.41 million people died, with a mortality rate of 7.37 per thousand. The natural population growth rate was -0.60‰. The statistics do not include Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan residents and foreigners living in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government. The last time China experienced negative population growth was in 1960 and 1961, during a period of widespread famine that followed the Great Leap Forward.

“The trend of negative population growth is irreversible”
Yi Fuxian, a longtime observer of China’s population development, thinks even the official numbers are likely to be a whitewash. By his own count, China’s population began shrinking four years ago. But he said it was also an admission that negative population growth in China had come about a decade earlier than the government had previously predicted. Yi Fuxian pointed out that unlike the “three-year difficult period”, the shrinking trend is “irreversible”.

China scrapped its “one child” policy before 2016 and even announced in 2021 that couples would be allowed to have three children, but these policies have not reversed the downward trend in the birth rate. In addition, a series of policies, including lowering fees for kindergartens and primary and secondary schools, increasing subsidies and guaranteeing the right to maternity and childcare leave, have not succeeded in encouraging births. Many women worry that having children will negatively affect their careers.

Experts say factors contributing to China’s low birth rate include the high cost of housing, education and health care, as well as young people’s low willingness to marry, a trend exacerbated by the three-year coronavirus pandemic and high youth unemployment. According to Reuters, searches for “baby strollers” on Baidu’s search engine dropped 41 percent in 2022 compared with 2018, while searches for “baby bottles” also fell by a third. By contrast, searches for “nursing home” have jumped eightfold in the past year.

Zhang Zhiwei, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, has predicted that the negative population growth trend in China will continue in the next few years. “China can no longer rely on the demographic dividend as a structural driver of economic growth,” he said. “Economic growth will have to rely more on policy-driven productivity improvements.”
In the longer term, UN experts predict that China’s population will shrink by 109 million by 2050, more than three times as much as the UN’s previous estimate in 2019.

The negative population growth trend has led many demographers in China to lament that the country may be aging before it really gets rich, slowing economic growth as the government struggles to make ends meet as health care and social welfare costs soar.

For the world’s second largest economy, ageing and a shrinking workforce have serious consequences. Because a shortage of workers means less tax revenue for the government, the pension system will be even more overwhelmed. One out of every five people in China is now over the age of 60. In 2020, five workers aged between 20 and 64 will bear the cost of caring for one elderly person aged 65 or older; by 2050, it will be 1.5 workers for each elderly person.

Demographer Yi Fuxian warned: “Without a social welfare network and family security, the pension crisis will turn into a humanitarian disaster.

China’s population stood at 1.4111.75 billion at the end of 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Tuesday. There were 9.56 million births and 10.41 million deaths that year, a drop of about 850,000 people in a single year. This is the first time since the end of the Great Famine in 19613 that China’s population has recorded negative growth.

Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla and owner of Twitter, has warned: “Demographic collapse poses great danger to the future of civilization!”

China’s efforts over the past few years to encourage women to have children and clamp down on the feminist movement have also led some observers to worry that this is becoming the country’s preferred strategy for tackling its population problems.

Jeremy Wallace, a professor at Cornell University who specialises in China, says: “The dark side is that [China] sees population as a problem that can be solved by encouraging fertility. But forcing women to have more children is not going to solve the problem.”

One of the issues that China’s feminist movement has focused on is discrimination against women in the workplace. Pregnancy often leads to women losing their job opportunities or being rejected by employers because of it.

“Encouraging women to have more children is unlikely to work unless the government also reduces workplace discrimination, which is a pervasive problem for women,” writes Mary Gallagher, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. I think the [population] decline should be seen as an opportunity for policy change, not just a crisis.”

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