Births fall in China in 2021 as workforce shrinks

17 January 2022, 09:04

A man holds a child
China Population. Picture: PA

Some 10.6 million babies were born, down on 12 million recorded in 2020.

The number of babies born in China continued to shrink last year as part of a decade-long trend, official data showed.

The news comes as a declining workforce adds pressure to the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions to boost national wealth and global influence.

Some 10.6 million babies were born, down 12% from the 12 million recorded in 2020, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported.

The total population stood at 1.413 billion at the end of 2021, an increase of 480,000 from the previous year.

A child feeds the birds
The birth rate was down on the 2020 total (AP)

The decline in birth rates could undercut the ruling party’s plans to develop technology and self-sustaining economic growth based on consumer spending rather than exports and investment.

The fall in population growth has prompted warnings that China, where economic output per person is below the global average, might face a “demographic time bomb” and have too few workers to support a growing number of elderly people.

The ruling party has enforced birth limits since 1980 to restrain population growth and conserve resources.

But leaders started to worry after the working-age population peaked at 925 million in 2011 and started to drop earlier than expected.

Authorities eased birth limits starting in 2015. But couples are put off by high costs, cramped housing and job discrimination against mothers.

A man and a child
The reduced birth rate is part of a decade-long trend (AP)

The percentage of people aged 16 to 59, the official working age population, edged down to 882.2 million, or 62.5% of the total, from 63.3% reported in the 2020 census. That is down from 70.1% a decade ago.

Demographers say the working-age share of the population might fall to half by 2050.

There were 267 million people aged 60 and above, or 18.9% of the total, up from 264 million, or 18.7%, in 2020.

The looming worker shortage comes as president Xi Jinping’s government boosts spending on its military and efforts to create global competitors in electric cars and other technologies.

Japan, Germany and some other rich countries face the same challenge of supporting aging populations with fewer workers. But they can draw on investments in factories, technology and foreign assets.

China Population
A declining workforce adds pressure to the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions to boost national wealth and global influence (AP)

By contrast, China depends on labour-intensive farming and manufacturing.

The party took its biggest step in 2015 when rules that limited many couples to having only one child were eased to allow two.

China’s birth rate was already falling before the one-child rule, in parallel with trends in South Korea, Thailand and other Asian economies.

The average number of children per mother tumbled from above six in the 1960s to below three by 1980, according to the World Bank.

Demographers say official birth limits concealed a further fall in the potential number of children per family.

The one-child limit, enforced with threats of fines or loss of jobs, led to abuses including forced abortions.

A preference for sons led parents to kill baby girls, prompting warnings millions of men might be unable to find a wife, and fuelling social tension.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian defence ministry, Ukrainian servicemen line up to be checked as they leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol

Russia’s claim of Mariupol’s capture fuels concern for prisoners of war

Kourtney Kardashian, left, and Travis Barker

The Kardashians take to Portofino for Kourtney-Travis wedding

Miranda Atnip sits in her car in a car park

Tennessee homeless seek refuge as public camping becomes a felony crime

Enrique Owens, a cousin of Roberta Drury, wears a T-shirt with her photograph on it before her funeral service on Saturday May 21 2022 (Lauren Petracca/AP)

Youngest of 10 Buffalo shooting victims is laid to rest

Rescue workers run for cover as earth movers dig through rubble of a collapsed tunnel in Ramban district, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on Friday May 20 2022

Nine more bodies found in Kashmir tunnel collapse – taking toll to 10

Anthony Albanese

Scott Morrison’s conservative government toppled in Australia

Tornado Michigan

Second death reported after rare tornado strikes Michigan

Anthony Albanese

Australian election: Albanese set to take power as Morrison concedes defeat

Gazprom headquarters

Russia hits back at Finland by halting all gas exports

Citizens cast their votes at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

PM Scott Morrison concedes defeat in Australian election

Anthony Albanese will be Australia’s new prime minister after Scott Morrison, inset, conceded defeat

Australia 'votes for change' as republican Anthony Albanese leads Labor to election win

President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One

Biden signs £32bn Ukraine assistance Bill during Asia trip

Ukrainian ambassador to Poland Andrii Deshchytsia speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Warsaw, Poland

Poles need EU funds as they help Ukrainians, ambassador says

Two trucks overturned after a storm in Paderborn, Germany

German storm generated three tornadoes, says weather service

US President Joe Biden listens to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol speak during a news conference at the People’s House inside the Ministry of National Defence in Seoul

US and South Korea to consider expanded military drills amid North Korea concern

Jim Finn holds his eight-month-old daughter Allegra as he casts his vote at a polling booth in Sydney, Australia

Australians vote to determine conservative government future