With the fifth of every Chinese aged above 60, China’s ministry of public security reported on Wednesday that the population of China is aging fast and nearing its peak.
Reports say the number of births in China in recent times has declined drastically, with the number of registered newborns dropping by 15 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The ministry said the birth figure dropped from 11.79 million in 2019 to 10.04 million last year.
On Wednesday, experts described the drop in birth figure as “an alarming trend”, warning that China’s society appears to be ageing more quickly than expected.
The Global Times, a Communist party-run news outlet, said that Chinese population numbers were falling below warning levels.
“The low birth rate in China has reached an alarming degree, but it is not a surprise,” a professor from the Institute of Population Research at Peking University, Mu Guangzong, is quoted to have told the Global Times.
The Chinese annual birth rate already reaching its lowest level as at 2019 since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, according to the statistical authority.
High education and housing costs were cited as reasons.
The number of marriages has also declined significnatly, while the divorce rate in China is relatively high.
Many couples are also waiting to marry and start families later than normal.
The abolition of the one-child one-couple policy that had been in place in China, the world’s most populous country, since 1976 only briefly led to an increase in births in 2016.
Since then, the number has steadily fallen again.
The true extent of the decline will be revealed with the release in April of the full 2020 birth figures from the statistical authority.
Experts say the reported figure which counts the number of newly requested residence registrations does not reflect all births as many babies are not registered.
But the trend is clear, people do not want to have children, family planning expert and researcher at the University of Wisconsin Yi Fuxian told Dpa.
The decades of one-child one-couple policy “changed people’s concept of fertility.
“Affected by family planning, people are accustomed to having only one child. The concept has become deeply rooted and difficult to change,” Mr Fuxian says.
He adds that the cost of raising children in China is higher than in Taiwan or South Korea, warning of the economic consequences of an ageing society and the decline of the working population.
“The labour force is the mainstay of the economy. If the labour force decreases, China’s economy will begin to decline,” Mr Fuxian says.
Estimates show that China’s economic growth will be lower than that of the United States from 2030 to 2035, with every fifth person in China today over 60 years old.