19 January 2024
China announced recently that the country's mainland population fell by 2 million people in 2023.
This drop is the second yearly decrease in population, adding to concerns about the country's future economic growth.
The National Bureau of Statistics said the total number of people in China dropped by 2.08 million, or 0.15 percent, to 1.409 billion in 2023. China does a full population count, or census, every 10 years.
Increased deaths and decreased fertility
The number of deaths rose by 690,000 to 11.1 million, more than twice the increase recorded in 2022. Population experts said the aging of the population and COVID-19 outbreaks account for most of the rise.
But the data also suggested important information about the number of births, which fell by 540,000, or 5.6 percent. The drop was smaller than the decreases of the past three years.
Still, the decreasing birth rate suggests that the fertility rate is a long-term economic and societal problem for China.
The lower fertility rate, together with people living longer because of better health care, means China is slowly growing older.
Demographer Zuo Xuejin, formerly of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, estimated that the proportion of the population that is 65 or older could double to more than 30 percent by 2050.
These population changes could slow economic growth over time.
Other countries in the region also face long-term population problems. Japan's birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000 people in 2022, while South Korea's rate was 4.9.
"As we have observed again and again from other low fertility countries, fertility decline is often very difficult to reverse," University of Michigan demographer Zhou Yun said.
I'm John Russell.
John Russell adapted this story from Reuters and AP reports.
Words in This Story
proportion – n. an amount that is a part of a whole
reverse – v. to undo or negate the effect of