China’s birth rate last year fell to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China more than 70 years ago, posing a long-term challenge for a government concerned by an ageing population.
- The number of babies born in China in 2019 dropped by about 580,000 to 14.65 million
- The abolition of the One Child Policy has failed to lift the country’s birth rate
- China’s population grew to 1.4 billion
The country’s birth rate in 2019 stood at 10.48 per thousand — the lowest since 1949 — data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China showed on Friday.
The number of babies born in 2019 dropped by about 580,000 to 14.65 million.
The abolishment of the One-Child Policy at the end of 2015 has not provided much of a tangible boost to the country’s birth rate.
From 2017 to 2018, total births fell by nearly 2 million.
The One Child Policy — introduced in 1979 — was aimed to control the population explosion in the decades after the Communist Party came into power in 1949, when Chairman Mao Zedong encouraged large families and condemned birth control to boost manpower.
But many young couples in China are reluctant to have children because they cannot afford to pay for healthcare and education alongside expensive housing.
Concerns for ageing population
The One-Child Policy is also regarded as one of the driving forces behind the country’s ageing population.
China’s overall population totalled 1.4 billion as of the end of 2019, the data from the bureau showed, inching up from 1.39 billion a year earlier.
But the country’s population is approaching what Chinese government scholars predict to be a peak of 1.44 billion in 2029, which is anticipated to be followed by “unstoppable” population decline.
Figures published by the China Association of Social Security in 2018 showed China’s elderly population is expected to reach 400 million by the end of 2035.
This rapid ageing is creating policy challenges for China’s leaders as they promise to guarantee healthcare and pension payments amid a slowing economy.
Figures from the bureau showed the world’s second-largest economy grew 6.1 per cent last year amid a bruising trade war with the US, down from 6.6 per cent in 2018.
Though still strong by global standards, and within the Government’s target range, it was the weakest expansion since 1990.
This week the US and China signed phase one of a new trade deal, defusing an 18-month conflict between the world’s two largest economies.
Meanwhile, as China’s birth rate falls, divorce rates in the country are hitting record highs.
In the first three quarters of 2019, about 3.1 million couples filed for divorce — compared with 7.1 million couples getting married — according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.