China’s population falls for first time in decades : NPR
BEIJING (AP) — China has announced its first population decline in decades as what was once the world’s most populous nation ages and its birth rate plummets .
The National Statistics Office reported Tuesday that the country had 850,000 fewer people at the end of 2022 than the previous year. The total includes only the population of mainland China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau as well as foreign residents.
This left a total of 1.41 billion people, with 9.56 million births against 10.41 million deaths, the Bureau said in a briefing on Tuesday.
Men outnumbered women by 722.06 million to 689.69 million, a result of the strict one-child policy that only officially ended in 2016 and a traditional preference for male offspring to continue the family name.
Since abandoning the policy, China has sought to encourage families to have second or even third children, with little success, reflecting attitudes in much of East Asia where birth rates births decreased precipitously. In China, the cost of raising children in cities is often cited as a cause.
China has long been the world’s most populous nation, but is expected to be overtaken by India soon, if it hasn’t already. Estimates put India’s population at over 1.4 billion and growing.
The last time China is believed to have recorded a population decline was during the Great Leap Forward launched in the late 1950s, under the disastrous impetus of the then leader Mao Zedong for the collective farming and industrialization that produced a massive famine that killed tens of millions of people. .
China’s population began to decline 9-10 years earlier than Chinese officials predicted and the United Nations projected, said Yi Fuxian, a demographer and expert on Chinese population trends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
This means that China’s “real demographic crisis is beyond imagination and that all of China’s economic, social, defense and foreign policies in the past have been based on flawed demographic data,” Yi told The Associated Press.
Yi said that, based on his own research, China’s population has actually been declining since 2018, showing that the population crisis is “much more severe” than previously thought. China now has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, comparable only to Taiwan and South Korea, he added.
China’s looming economic crisis will be worse than Japan’s, where years of low growth have been blamed in part on a shrinking population, Yi said.
“China got old before it got rich,” Yi said.
China’s statistics office said that the working-age population between 16 and 59 years old amounted to 875.56 million, accounting for 62.0% of the national population, while those aged 65 and over accounted for for 209.78 million, amounting to 14.9% of the total.
The statistics also showed that urbanization is increasing in a country that has traditionally been largely rural. During 2022, the permanent urban population increased by 6.46 million to reach 920.71 million, or 65.22%, while the rural population decreased by 7.31 million.
It was not immediately clear if the population figures were affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan before spreading around the world. China has been accused by some specialists of underreporting deaths from the virus by blaming them on underlying conditions, but no estimates of the actual number have been published.
The United Nations estimated last year that the world’s population reached 8 billion on November 15 and that India will replace China as the world’s most populous nation in 2023. India’s last census was scheduled for 2022 but was postponed amid the pandemic.
In a report released on World Population Day, the UN also said that global population growth fell below 1% in 2020 for the first time since 1950.
Also Tuesday, the bureau released data showing China’s economic growth fell to the second-lowest level in at least four decades last year under pressure from virus controls and a fall in real estate.
The world’s No. 2 economy grew by 3% in 2022, less than half of the previous year’s 8.1%, the data showed.
That was the second-lowest annual rate since at least the 1970s, after falling to 2.4% in 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, although activity is reviving after the removal of ir -restrictions that kept millions of people at home and sparked protests.