For the first time in decades: China reports population decline

With more than 1.4 billion people, China is the country with the largest population in the world. For 2022, the statistical office is now reporting a decline for the first time in decades - by 850,000 inhabitants.

China has seen its population decline for the first time in years. At the end of last year, the most populous country in the world had 1.412 billion inhabitants, around 850,000 fewer than a year earlier, the statistics office in Beijing said.

The development occurs against the background of an aging society with declining birth rates. Citizens of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs and Taiwan, which China considers part of the People’s Republic, are not included in the count. Foreigners are also not included in the statistics.

The birth rate last year was 6.77 per 1,000 people, down from a rate of 7.52 births in 2021, marking the lowest on record. China also recorded its highest death rate since 1976, at 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people, compared to a rate of 7.18 deaths in 2021.

Consequences of the one-child policy and high education costs

China has long been suffering from a sharp decline in the birth rate and an aging population. The effects of the “one-child policy” that has been pursued for decades are becoming more and more noticeable. The abolition of this only led to a slight increase in births for a short time in 2016.

Experts see the high costs for housing, education and health care in China as well as the dwindling willingness to marry as the real reasons for the development. The corona pandemic, which has been going on for three years, caused further uncertainties that are likely to have accelerated the trend.

In response to the declining birth rate and the rapid aging of the population, three children were also allowed in 2021. Since then, the government has also been trying to make it easier for young couples to care for children. The cost of education has been reduced. Financial aid has been granted, and maternity and parental leave have been made easier, as many women fear that motherhood will negatively affect their careers.

It was the first decline in the number of people in the world’s most populous country since the early 1960s. At that time, China was suffering from the worst famine in its modern history. This was caused by the “Great Leap Forward” industrialization and collectivization program proclaimed by state founder Mao Tse-Tung.

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