In 2022, China’s population fell for the first time in 60 years, the National Bureau of Statistics announced on Tuesday, fearing that the country might begin a long period of population decline.
The population of mainland China fell by 850,000 people in 2022, to 1.41175 billion—the first decline in population since 1961 during the great famine triggered by the Great Leap Forward.
In 2022, the Asian giant saw a record low birthrate of 6.77 births per 1,000, down from 7.52 in 2021. Deaths also outnumbered births for the first time last year, when China recorded its highest death rate since 1976, at 7.37 deaths per 1,000 people.
In 2021, by comparison, China’s population grew by the slowest increase on record, increasing by 480,0000 to 1.41260 billion by the end of 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. However, in 2021, new births fell by 13%.
“The contraction of the total population reflects the impact of the pandemic and the associated economic downturn on fertility demand,” said Yue Su, principal economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“This trend is going to continue and perhaps worsen after Covid,” Su said. “The high youth unemployment rate and weaknesses in income expectations could delay marriage and childbirth plans further, dragging down the number of newborns.”
For several years, the Chinese government has tried to encourage more people to have children as its population gets older. After decades of discouraging more than one child per family, new policies have been put in place to help ease the financial burden of child-rearing via subsidies or tax breaks. Some provinces have even offered cash payments to parents who have two to three children.