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The decline of China's population has accelerated in recent years. 2023

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China's population decline is expected to continue in the coming years, observers say.

Agence France-Presse

Cost of education, growing rejection of marriage: China's population decline accelerated in 2023, according to official data released Wednesday, extending a fall that began in 2022 after six decades of growth.

Long the most populous country in the world, China lost its title to India last year, according to the UN . This downward trend is expected to continue over the coming decades.

Faced with the predicted demographic crisis, the government is making abundant communications in favor of the birth rate and local authorities are now paying more family allowances – which remain modest – without much effect for the moment.

At the end of 2023, the national population was 1.40967 billion people, a decrease of 2.08 million from the end of 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced on Wednesday.

Last year's decline was more than double that of 2022, when the country lost 850,000 people and its population declined for the first time since the 1960s.

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The figure only includes individuals of Chinese nationality residing in mainland China. It does not include foreigners or residents of the semi-autonomous territories of Hong Kong and Macau.

In 2023, the number of births was 9.02 million, the BNS also announced on Wednesday, a figure down from 9.56 million in 2022.

The average number of children per woman in China peaked at more than 7 in the 1960s. But it fell to a very worrying 1.05 in 2022, the demographer tells AFP independent He Yafu, who says he is basing himself on official figures.

Among the main reasons explaining the decline in the birth rate are the high cost of raising a child and the growing distrust of younger generations towards the institution of marriage – obligatory passage in China before having a baby.

The growing number of women pursuing higher education is also delaying the age of first pregnancy.

The Chinese government launched in the early 1980s its one-child policy in order to stem its exponential population growth. But it has gradually been relaxed in recent years to boost the birth rate. Since 2021, all couples can have three children.

Wasteful effort: China's population decline trend is fundamentally impossible to reverse, as younger generations are generally no longer willing to have many children, He Yafu tells AFP.

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China is facing a demographic challenge, with a significant slowdown in its birth rate.

To slow down this fall, He Yafu pleads for more family allowances, childcare solutions or even the possibility of sending his children to school earlier kindergarten.

The problems caused by this demographic crisis and the aging of the population currently at work are multiple.

Particularly on the economic level: China has long relied on its vast workforce to stimulate its growth. The decline in the number of people of working age is expected to have an impact.

Another problem is social. Tradition requires in China to take care of elderly parents, to an even higher degree than Western societies.

But most couples in China being today made up of two adults only children, they have a lot to do having to take care of their four elderly parents. A burden that becomes very important.

To try to compensate for this phenomenon, China presented this week a major seniors plan, which could cost thousands of billions of euros, to cope with the growing increase in needs for services in the sector ( retirement homes, entertainment, home care or even meal delivery).

What about, moreover, the use of immigration as a solution to demographic decline?

This is not sustainable, because over the next decades China's population will decline by several hundred million people , estimates He Yafu.

This means that hundreds of millions of people would have to come. However, the vast majority of Chinese today oppose immigration and the authorities are very restrictive in this area, he emphasizes.

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