China’s census shows that population growth has slowed

Joggers run along the federal road across from the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai, China, on Saturday April 10, 2021.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING – China’s once-a-decade census found that the mainland’s population as of November 1, 2020 was 1.41 billion people, the slowest growth rate since the 1950s.

The average annual growth rate over the past 10 years has been 0.53%. This is evident from the results of the seventh census, which was published on Tuesday.

This is a decrease from an average annual growth rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010.

Ning Jizhe, commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics, attributed the decline mainly to a continued decline in the number of women of childbearing age, delay in childbirth and rising child-rearing costs.

A few years ago, the Chinese authorities began to reverse a decades-old “one child policy” and allow people to have two children. However, births continued to decline, declining 15% for a fourth straight year in 2020.

The population survey, carried out at the end of last year, was originally due to be published in April.

According to official figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, mainland China’s population rose by 4.67 million in 2019 to just over 1.4 billion people.

The aging of the population has a significant impact on China’s economic development.

The proportion of the working-age population in China or between 15 and 59 years old decreased by 6.79 percentage points in 2020 compared to 2010. In contrast, the proportion of people over 60 years of age rose by 5.44 percentage points.

The rate at which China’s population is aging is faster than that of Southeast Asian nations, which could give these countries an opportunity to pull labor-intensive manufacturing out of China, said Yue Su, chief economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit. However, she noted that China’s aging rate is still slower than that of developed Asian economies like South Korea.

Su said that since it takes about 15 to 20 years for policy changes to affect labor supply, there is an urgency for authorities to ease restrictions on births.

Earlier this year, researchers from the People’s Bank of China released a paper calling for the full lifting of restrictions on childbirth. The paper also made other suggestions for encouraging more births and described how China’s aging population is economically disadvantaging the country versus the US and India.

Chinese are moving to more affluent regions

The census also showed that more Chinese were moving from the poorer northeast of the country to the richer eastern and southern regions. In three provinces in northeast China, the population has declined over the past decade.

The migrant population increased by 69.73%, or about 154 million people, the census found. However, more people chose to stay in the same province.

“Overall, this move is positive for China’s economy as a whole,” said Su. “It essentially reflects that resources are focused on cities and regions that are more economically viable.”

The number of people living in urban areas rose to 63.89% from 49% in the previous year.

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