China’s population dropped in 2022, by 850,000, the first decrease since 1962, the National Bureau of Statistics reported on Tuesday.
The annual data survey also showed a record-low birth rate and the highest death rate since 1976.
At the end of last year, the population of the Chinese mainland stood at 1.41175 billion, the NBS revealed at Tuesday’s press conference.
This figure counted all the citizens in the 31 provinces and autonomous regions, but excludes the residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as foreigners living on the mainland.
Statistics for 2022 showed an aging population, a shrinking labor force, low birth and high death rates, with more men than women and city-dwellers vastly outnumbering the countryside. Chinese demographers attribute this to the long-lasting impact of the ‘One Child’ policy, which was only relaxed in 2015.
China’s population is “still hovering around the zero growth stage,” Yuan Xin, a professor from the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University’s School of Economics, told the Global Times on Tuesday. He noted that there was a net increase of 480,000 people in 2021, and that the gap is “very small for 1.4 billion people.”
Only 9.56 million babies were born in 2022, the first dip below ten million since 1950. It was also the third year in a row where the birth rate had dropped below one percent, going from 7.52 per thousand in 2021 to just 6.77. By comparison, the US had 11.06 births per thousand in 2021, while India had 16.42.
The death rate rose to 7.37 deaths per thousand, from 7.18 the previous year – the worst numbers since 1976.
The NBS also reported that 65.22% of China’s population lived in the cities, the labor force shrank by 0.5%, and the number of people over the age of 60 has increased by 13 million to 19.8% of the overall population.
China’s leadership imposed a ‘One Child’ policy in 1980, seeking to curb population growth, with the cultural preference for male children leading to an imbalance between the sexes. Men currently outnumber women by 32.37 million, for a ratio of 104.69 to 100.
Though the policy was officially ended in 2015 and Beijing has encouraged families to start having three children since 2021, the demographic incentives have not caught up with trends yet.
At the Party Congress last October, President Xi Jinping pledged to “boost birth rates, and bring down the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing, and schooling,” as well as to “pursue a proactive national strategy” to care for the elderly.