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China records lowest birth rate in 2021

FILE PHOTO: Children play at a playground inside a shopping complex in Shanghai, China June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

Mainland China’s birth rate fell to a new low in 2021, continuing a decreasing trend that prompted Beijing to allow couples to have up to three children last year.

The news: In 2016, China repealed its decades-old one-child policy and replaced it with a two-child restriction in an attempt to mitigate the economic risks of an ageing population, but the high expense of urban living has discouraged families from having more children.

  • The birth rate of 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021 was the lowest since the National Statistics Bureau began collecting data in 1949, putting even more pressure on officials to encourage more births.
  • According to the data, the natural growth rate of China’s population, excluding migration, was only 0.034 per cent in 2021, the lowest since 1960.

What’s going on: China has been enacting measures aimed at easing the financial burden of raising children, including prohibiting for-profit after-school tuition, a large business, last year.

  • China’s working-age population is already dwindling, putting additional strain on the country’s ability to pay for and care for an ageing population.
  • According to the data, there were 10.62 million births in 2021, compared to 12 million in 2020.

What they’re saying: In the absence of further policy adjustments, according to Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert at the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization, birth counts are likely to fluctuate in the ten million area before decreasing further.

  • “However, in the long run, policy will provide more support for the birth rate,” Huang said.
  • “Career achievements may be linked to whether or not you have children, economic incentives, or even direct societal cash distributions to cover the costs of raising a family.”
  • The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population aging is clearly faster than expected,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset management.
  • “This suggests China’s total population may have reached its peak in 2021. It also indicates China’s potential growth is likely slowing faster than expected,” Zhang said.

In 2020, the birth rate was 8.52 per 1,000 people.

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