Beijing [China]: Chinese demographers are predicting that negative population growth will be the dominant trend in the coming years for a long time with the population expected to see negative growth before 2025.
During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) the rate of China’s total population is expected to be slowing down significantly and enter a negative growth rate.
The estimation was given by the Head of Population and Family Affairs at the National Health Commission, Yang Wenzhuang at the 2022 Annual Conference of the China Population Association.
In order to address this problem, improving the overall quality of the population, changing economic development plans are vital.
According to 2021 birth data released by 29 regions in China, the number of new births was the lowest in decades in several provinces.
The only top 10 provinces with the most births are Guangdong, Henan, Shandong, Sichuan, Hebei, Anhui, Guangxi, Jiangsu, Hunan and Guizhou. Only Guangdong Province has had more than 1 million new births, China’s local media outlet Global Times reported.
Looking at the provincial data, the number of births in Central China’s Hunan Province fell below 500,000 for the first time in nearly 60 years. Henan with the third highest population in China, had fewer than 800,000 births for the first time since 1978.
Meanwhile, the number of births in East China’s Jiangxi Province fell below 400,000 for the first time since the 1950s.
While speaking to Global Times, Huang Wenzheng, a demography expert and senior researcher at the Center for China and Globalisation said, “This is an inevitable result of a long period of low fertility rate,” adding, “It can be predicted that China’s birth rate will continue to shrink for more than a century and the birth rate in first-tier cities will continue to fall. The third-child policy may alleviate some of the problems, but it is unlikely to reverse the trend in the short term.”
“Low fertility rates mean that there are fewer potential mothers and fathers. The number of people willing to have children is also shrinking fast at the same time. Add these two factors together and we now see the trend of rapid shrinkage in natural population growth rate,” Huang said.
Lu Jiehua, a professor of sociology at Peking University, told the Global Times that given the current demographic trends, China will inevitably enter a period of negative population growth for a long time, although there might be some fluctuations occurring during this period.
To reduce the cost of childbirth, parenting, and education, many cities and regions have rolled out a set of measures, including reducing childbirth and education costs, to aim for balanced population growth in the long run.
“The overall arrangement of the social and economic development needs to be adjusted to adapt to the new pattern of population growth,” Lu said.
“For a long time in the past, China has relied on the demographic dividend to drive economic development. In the future, the demographic dividend may gradually decline or go into debt. In this case, we should explore advantages in areas beyond the demographic dividend to fully improve the overall quality of the population and create new conditions for economic development,” he added.