Preliminary numbers assessing China's births in 2020 released by the country’s household registration system are setting off alarm bells for Beijing, suggesting a continued severe population decline, given the new numbers for last year show a whopping 15% decline in births from the year before.
"Concerns over the outlook for China’s population have grown after the number of newborns recorded in the country’s household registration system declined 15 per cent during a coronavirus-hit 2020," South China Morning Post observes of the new numbers. "Last year, a total 10.035 million of newborns were recorded in the household registration system, known as hukou in China, down from 11.79 million in 2019, according to figures released by the Ministry of Public Security on Monday."
While the hukou system only reveals preliminary information on total births across the population, it's official demographic stats for COVID-impacted 2020 is expected to come out soon via China’s National Bureau of Statistics based on a once in ten year national census it recently conducted. As SCMP underscores it's predicted that when total official stats do come out, expectations are for a further decline after previously 2019 saw "the lowest level since 1961" and down from 2018 as well.
China is the world's most populous country with the number of people commonly estimated at just over 1.4 billion. When the current working-age population hits retirement, there are fears the decline in births trend will severely impact the world's second largest economy.
This also given the latest official figures out of the National Bureau of Statistics show that some 18% of the population is already over 60, with this ageing demographic to grow to one-third of the entire population by 2050.
The SCMP report cited one prominent research economics professor to say the writing is on the wall. "The collapse of the newborn population is really here," he warned, writing that:
“Although we cannot deduce the decline in the birth population in these regions as the annual decline in the country, we consider that idea of having two children is weak and the number of women of childbearing age has decreased, so we need not anticipate further that the birth population in 2020 will drop significantly compared with 2019. The collapse of the newborn population is really here,” said James Liang, a research professor of applied economics at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, in a blog post last week.
The obvious irony is of course that China is responsible for its own undoing on this front, given it's now feeling the full impact of its draconian and dystopian/totalitarian "one child policy" which was enforced harshly and in effect from 1975 through 2015.
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In 2016 and after couples were allowed to have two children, which the government began vocally encouraging, though it increasingly appears too little, too late.
Sensing the coming population and birth rate woes, the Communist-run People's Daily in 2018 put out a rare full page editorial urging the following: "Giving birth is a family matter and a national issue too," and warned that "the impact of low birth rates on the economy and society has begun to show."
Thus seemingly overnight the central planners in Beijing went from punishing those who dared to have more children to then claiming bigger families were 'patriotic' as part of a national duty. Based on the latest preliminary numbers, it naturally doesn't appear the population got the message in time.