Jan 18, 2024
China’s government on Wednesday released two pieces of bad news for the world’s second-biggest country: Its human population and its economic growth both shrank in 2023.
The Asian country’s population fell last year by more than 2 million people. It decreased to 1.4 billion, says China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The reason: increased deaths from COVID-19 and a birth rate that keeps dropping.
The government loosened lockdowns and COVID protocols at the end of 2022. It pushed up deaths in 2023 to 11.1 million. Meanwhile, the number of births fell by more than half a million. This came as fewer women say they want to have children.
The birth rate decline is partly tied to China’s economy. People have fewer children in weak economic times.
The country’s economy grew by just 5.2% last year. This may have hit the 5% mark set by the government. But that growth came from the pandemic easing. Long term economic growth in China is slowing sharply. One cause is high national debt. Others are a housing crunch and a workforce that is contracting and aging.
Thus, economists predict China’s economy will remain stagnant, after decades of swift growth.
As for population decline, China’s leaders have tried to entice families to have more children. The government has offered cheaper housing, tax savings, and even outright cash. It has launched public relations campaigns urging women to be “good wives and mothers” for their country. Yet those efforts clearly have not worked.
The falling birth rate is of great concern to Chinese leaders because it’s causing a labor and demographic gap. Soon, there will not be nearly enough people entering the workforce to make up for workers leaving it for retirement.
Reflect: How might changes in a country's population impact its future?
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