China is set to report its first population drop in 50 years following a latest census that is expected to show a decline, according to a report.
The Financial Times quoted people familiar with the matter as saying the census is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4 billion. In 2019, China’s population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4 billion mark, it said.
The census was completed in December, but has not yet been made public.
"If China confirms such a decline, it would be a big deal," Zhiwei Zhang, Shenzhen-based chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, told Reuters.
"The consensus expects China's population to peak at 2027, based on the projection made by the United Nations. This would be much earlier than the market and policy makers expected,” he said.
China scrapped its decades-long one-child policy in 2016, allowing couples to have two children. However, the birth rate in the country has continued to fall.
The number of newborns in China dropped 15 per cent in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the ministry of public security. China saw 10.035 million births last year compared with 11.79 million in 2019.
China has been working to reverse the trend of declining birth rates and has announced initiatives to encourage couples to have more children. Local authorities have offered child care subsidies and extended parental leave, according to The Washington Post.
The rising cost of housing, healthcare and education is considered one of the reasons for the decline in birth rates. A change in attitude is another reason attributed to the drop.
Zhang Lijia, a writer and journalist, toldThe Guardian that there was a change in attitude and many women “no longer regarded marriage and parenthood as necessary passages in life or the essential ingredients of a happy life.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought on economic uncertainties, making couples reluctant to have children.
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