The population of China witnessed a year-over-year decline for the first time in six decades.
The Chinese National Bureau of Statistics revealed on Tuesday that the country’s population dropped to 1.412 billion in 2022 from 1.413 billion in 2021, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, marking the first decline since the nation was devastated by famine in the early 1960s under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party founder Mao Zedong.
The number of births fell to 9.56 million from 10.62 million over the same period, while birth rates dropped to 6.77 per thousand people from 7.52 per thousand people.
The news follows a report by the United Nations forecasting that India would pass China this year as the world’s most populous nation. India presently has a fertility rate of 2.2 children per woman. In comparison, China has a fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
China had spent decades championing the infamous one-child policy, under which couples were only permitted to bear a single child out of fear that the nation would not have sufficient resources to support a growing population. Even as couples are now permitted to have up to three children, the cultural value of having small families might now be embedded into Chinese society after decades under the one-child policy, despite efforts from officials to increase fertility.
The Chinese government has therefore sanctioned several industries to create markets that promote affordability for larger families. Before a ban on private tutoring was introduced two years ago, China maintained a supplementary education sector worth $120 billion, with roughly 70% of parents in Beijing and Shanghai paying for their children to receive additional instruction. Officials also prohibited speculation in residential real estate to decrease property prices.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently began his unprecedented third term as head of state, told Chinese Communist Party officials assembled last year that he desires to move more residents out of poverty.
“We will ensure more pay for more work and encourage people to achieve prosperity through hard work,” he said. “We will promote equality of opportunity, increase the income of low income earners and expand the size of the middle income group. We will keep income distribution and the means of accumulating wealth well regulated.”
China is among several world powers facing a demographic crisis marked by a higher number of elderly citizens relative to younger residents who are still economically productive. Western European countries, as well as Japan and the United States, are among the major economies witnessing a collapse in birth rates, exerting pressure on government pension programs.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is among the most vocal opponents of conventional wisdom, which posits that global population expansion is harmful to the climate. He often asserts that the world is facing a demographic crisis, noting last year that China would lose some 40% of its population every generation under current birth rate conditions.
“I think one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birthrate and the rapidly declining birthrate,” Musk explained at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit two years ago. “And yet, so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite.”