Official data released on January 16 shows that China recorded a decline in population for the second consecutive year in 2023.
According to China National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the population dropped by 2.08 million to 1.409 billion in 2023.
“By the end of 2023, the national population was 1,409.67 million, a decrease of 2.08 million over the end of 2022,” Beijing’s NBS said.
Reports indicate that the demographic shift poses long term challenges to the Chinese government which is already experiencing economic pressures.
The agency attributed the decline to falling birth rates and a wave of deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Total deaths rose by 6.6% to 11.1 million while the birthrate dropped by 5.7%.
“In 2023, the number of births was 9.02 million with a birth rate of 6.39 per thousand down from 9.56 million births in 2022,” the NBS said.
The birthrate recorded in 2023 is the lowest while the death rate is the highest since 1974.
The drop is more than double the decline reported in 2022 when the Chine lost 850,000 people as its population fell for first time since 1960.
China Records Economic Growth
However, the report showed that China hit the economic growth targets.
The economy grew at 5.5% beating the target of 5%, the lowest target in decades.
Industrial output also rose by 6.8 in December from a year’s better than a 6.6% increase projected by economists.
Retail sales grew 7.4%, worse than the forecast for an 8% gain, while fixed-asset investment climbed 3% in the year, slightly better than a predicted 2.9% rise.
The urban jobless rate was 5.1% in December, up from 5% in November.
“China’s economy withstood external pressures and overcame domestic challenges to rebound and improve in 2023,” the NBS said in a statement accompanying the data.
The agency warned, though, that economic development still faces some difficulties and challenges.
About Chineses One Child Policy
China’s one-child policy was rolled out in 1979 and was strictly enforced after the population had increased to 969 million in 1980 from around 540 million in 1949.
It restricted most couples to only a single offspring, and for years authorities argued it was a key factor in supporting the country’s economic growth.
It was enforced by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, with a system of fines for violators and often forced abortions.
Civil servants and employees of government-affiliated organizations, including universities, risked losing their jobs if they were found to have had more than one child.
Rural families were already allowed two children if the first was a girl, while ethnic minorities were allowed an extra offspring, leading some to dub it a “one-and-a-half child” policy.
Urban couples were also allowed to have a second child if the parents were both single children.
The one-child policy was generally accepted to mean one birth per family, meaning if women gave birth to two or more children at the same time, they would not be penalized.
In 2016 China ended its strict “one-child policy” imposed in the 1980s to prevent overpopulation.
China, which is world’s second largest economy, allowed couples have three children in 2021.
However, this policy has failed to reverse China’s demographic decline.
The Chinese government has long relied on its vast workforce as a driver of economic growth.