China’s birth rate declines for first time in decades. It could have global impact.


JANUARY 17, 2023

China’s birth rate has declined for the first time in decades, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday, a shift that experts say could influence the global economy.

The world’s most populous country had 1.41175 billion people in it in 2022, a drop of 850,000 compared with 2021. The birth rate was 6.77 births per 1,000 people, a fall from 7.52 births per 1,000 in 2021, according to the statistics agency.

Why China’s falling population matters

Researchers believe the lower population growth rate could mean higher labor costs in China because of a smaller pool of available workers. A shrinking labor force could make it harder for China’s government to fund its public health and welfare costs, which would suppress China’s economy. “Fewer births in China will lead to economic slowdown, manufacturing recession, university bankruptcy, and will also lead to high prices and high inflation in the US and EU,” Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on Chinese demographics, wrote on Twitter.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics released separate data Tuesday that showed the country’s economy grew by 3% in 2022, well below its 5.5% growth target. China’s zero-COVID policy had a major effect on its economic activity in 2022.

Why is China’s population declining?

Seven years after China began ending its one-child policy limiting population growth, women in China are still choosing to have fewer children or opting to have them later in life, according to the YuWa Population Research Institute, a Beijing-based think tank. Among the reasons cited: rising living costs. YuWa has calculated that China is one of the world’s most expensive places for child-rearing; the average cost of raising a child to age 18, as of 2019, is $76,629 – or 6.9 times China’s per capita GDP that year. (In the U.S., the figure was 4.11 times per capita GDP.)

“There is a clear trend among young women not wanting to get married and have children anymore, a phenomenon which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the harsh lockdowns,” said Martina Fuchs, a business journalist for Xinhua, a Chinese state news agency. “They choose their financial independence and social freedom and want to have their own lives and careers.”

Fuchs is at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland. She said China’s population decline is a key topic of discussion among the event’s business and political leaders. “Participants are worried about China’s economic performance this year as they pinned their hopes on China playing the role of a growth engine in the current economic crisis.”

Who will overtake China, and when?

China has had a large population for a long time. In 1750, it had a population of 225 million, or about 28% of the world’s population that year, according to Our World in Data, a research unit affiliated with Oxford University. China has been the world’s most populous nation since at least 1950, and it has not seen any measurable decreases to its population since 1961, the final year of China’s Great Famine. But the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences forecasts China’s population will soon start decreasing by about 1.1%, or 15 million, each year – in 2022 it fell just 0.06% – pushing its 1.41 billion population to under 600 million in 2100.

By that time, India will have more people than any other country, with a projected population of 1.53 billion. In fact, India is on course to surpass China as the world’s most populous country a lot sooner than that, by 2024, when Our World in Data researchers estimate it will have 1.44 billion people.

Courtesy/Source: This article originally appeared on USA TODAY