The birth rate in China has fallen to its lowest level since the late 1970s. The statistics office in Beijing also vaguely explained the decrease in births by 18 percent to twelve million last year with the corona pandemic. But experts see the high costs for housing, education and health in China and the dwindling willingness to marry as the main reasons for the worrying development.
The birth rate in the most populous country slipped back into the single-digit range for the first time at 8.52 newborns per 1,000 people – as low as it has been since 1978, as the statisticians reported in their new yearbook. Because of the declining birth rate and the stable number of deaths, the population of billions is moving towards zero growth.
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“If the trend continues, we will have a population decline in a few years,” said Professor Song Jian of Beijing People’s University of the Sixth Tone newspaper. “While the young population is likely to shrink even faster, the problem of aging will worsen, which will damage economic and social development.”
The statistical office gave the population growth for the ten years to 2020 at 0.53 percent – after 0.57 percent in the years 2000 to 2010. The fertility rate of women of childbearing age has fallen to 1.3. That is significantly lower than the 2.1 that experts consider necessary for a stable population.
The end of the one-child policy led to a slight upturn
The end of the controversial one-child policy that has been in force since 1979 six years ago only led to a slight upturn for a short time until the number of births in 2018 fell back below the level of 2015. There are 36 percent fewer births today than in 2016 with 18.83 million, according to more recent information in the yearbook.
In response to the decline in the birth rate and rapid aging, three children were also allowed in May this year. The government is also working to make it easier for young couples to have children. Education costs have been reduced. Financial aid was granted and maternity or parental leave made easier.
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But the willingness to marry is already declining. The number of marriages fell for the seventh year in a row in 2020, according to the yearbook. Only 8.1 million couples got married in 2020 – a decrease of twelve percent compared to the previous year.
In a recent survey by the youth league, almost half of the women said they did not want to get married or were unsure whether they would tie the knot. It was one in four men. 2905 women and men between the ages of 18 and 26 were interviewed in cities. More than half said giving birth and raising children are too expensive. Women also often point out that motherhood has a negative impact on their professional career.
As a result, fewer and fewer working people in the second largest economy have to look after more and more old people. As the census in May showed, the population of 1.4 billion is aging inexorably. The number of Chinese over 60 has increased by 5.44 percent to 264 million since 2010. Almost every fifth Chinese (18.7 percent) is over 60 years old. At the same time, the population group of working age between 15 and 59 years continues to decline. (dpa)