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China’s Population Expected to Decrease for the First Time in 60 Years

China’s Population Expected to Decrease for the First Time in 60 Years

The world’s most populous country is finally slowing down, and birth rates have reached lows not seen since the 1950s and 60s, during China’s great famine. China’s population has exploded since the early 1960s, swelling from 660 million to 1.4 billion, and 2022 is projected to be the first time the population decreases since the famine. There are multiple reasons for young adults to not have children, as there have been strict covid protocols in place since 2020, the cost of living has increased annually, and there are fewer women of child-bearing age in China than one might think.

China’s one-child policy was abandoned in 2016, yet the effects are just beginning to be felt today. Since couples were limited to one child, most couples wanted a boy, which raised the national sex ratio to 120 boys per 100 girls, and in some provinces, that ratio reaches 130 to 100, per the National Library of Medicine. For comparison, the global ratio is 106 boys to 100 girls, which is significantly lower than China’s. This means that there are going to be fewer women of child-bearing age in the country, making it harder for single men to find a match and start a family. 

It makes sense that the population has been slowing down over the past couple of years, considering the Covid pandemic and the strict quarantine protocols Chinese people have had to follow for the past couple of years. Social gatherings have been prohibited, which makes it hard to meet people- nonetheless meet someone you’d want to start a family with. On top of this, the cost of living has increased, and it is possible for married couples to feel as if they couldn’t afford to raise a child right now, or don’t want to bring up a child during a global pandemic. Either way, both possibilities are reasonable explanations as to why the birth rate is falling.

According to the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, China’s population grew by 0.34 per 1,000 in 2021, which is low since the great famine. They also predict, for the first time in over 60 years, that the population will shrink by 0.49 per 1,000 in 2022. Before Covid, the UN World Population Prospects predicted China’s population to peak in 2031, at 1.46 billion. Now, experts are saying the population peak was in 2021, and the population is expected to steadily decline at 1.1% per year. 

This population decrease will affect China in a multitude of ways, and the Chinese government is working on ways to combat the projected population decrease. For starters, they abolished the infamous one-child policy, and introduced a new three-child policy, giving out tax breaks to those who have more than one child. They are trying to incentivize their people to have more children, as you can guarantee they are seeing these projections and numbers as well. 

If these numbers are accurate, and the population does decrease by 1.1% annually, China’s economy will be severely hampered. A smaller population means a smaller workforce, and China is currently in the middle of rapid industrialization. They need more workers to keep up this pace, and a decreasing population does not help the industrialization effort. A smaller workforce would drive up labor costs, and companies would most likely move their manufacturing plants to more labor-abundant countries. Countries would begin to trade with other countries and become less dependent on China for manufactured goods. In short, if China’s population trends follow projections, it will soon be replaced as one of the world’s largest manufacturers. If China wants to remain an economic and political superpower, they need its citizens to produce more children. 



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