China’s birth rate drops to record low

Latest data comes as government implores people to have more childnen after decades of doing the opposite.

A child is carried on a man's shoulders in the middle of a crowded city sidewalk.
Mainland China's birthrate dropped to a record low in 2021 [File: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg]

Mainland China’s birth rate dropped to a record low of 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, National Bureau of Statistics data showed on Monday, accelerating a downward trend that led Beijing last year to begin allowing couples to have up to three children.

China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and counter a rapidly ageing population, but many couples do not want to have more children because of the high cost of urban living.

The birth rate was the lowest since 1949 when the statistics bureau began collating the data.

The natural growth rate of China’s population, which excludes migration, was only 0.034 percent for 2021, the lowest since 1960.

“The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population ageing 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.

There were 10.62 million births in 2021, the data showed, compared with 12 million in 2020.

The birth rate in 2020 was 8.52 births per 1,000 people.

Source: Reuters