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China Sees Second Consecutive Year of Population Decline Amid Record-Low Birth Rate

In 2023, China experienced a second consecutive year of population decline, with a record-low birth rate and a surge in COVID-19 deaths after strict lockdowns were lifted.

The National Bureau of Statistics reported a population decrease of 2.08 million (0.15%) to 1.409 billion. This decline was more significant than the 850,000 drop in 2022, marking the first decline since 1961.

The pandemic-related deaths, coupled with a birth rate decrease of 5.7%, resulted in 11.1 million fatalities and 9.02 million births. The birth rate reached a historic low of 6.39 per 1,000 inhabitants. China’s long-standing trend of falling birth rates is attributed to factors such as urbanization, economic shifts, and the aftermath of the one-child policy.


Youth unemployment, declining white-collar earnings, and a property sector crisis further dampened the desire for more children. This demographic shift raises concerns about economic implications, including a dwindling workforce and consumer base, increased costs for retirement pensions, and strained local governments.

China’s population over 60 rose to 21.1% of the total, with the death rate reaching 7.87 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants. UN estimates project a continued population decline, anticipating a decrease of 109 million by 2050. India surpassed China as the most populous country in 2022.

China faces challenges in sustaining the pension system, with projections indicating potential insolvency by 2035. Efforts to encourage childbirth through local initiatives lack uniform implementation and face financial constraints. President Xi Jinping’s call for fostering a culture of marriage and childbearing underscores the socio-economic implications of demographic shifts.

Despite incentives like longer maternity leaves and tax discounts, challenges persist, including high childcare costs, job market uncertainties, and deeply ingrained societal norms. The complexity of these issues poses obstacles to reversing the trend of declining births and calls for comprehensive, nationally coordinated solutions.

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