Beijing: China's demographic crisis deepened in 2022 as its population declined for the first time since 1961 because of a plunging birth rate, the country’s statistics office said on Tuesday, amid a forecast that India is poised to overtake the Communist giant as the world's most populous country.
China's population fell by 850,000 from 2021 to hit 1.4118 billion in 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said. The announcement comes at a time when China's economic growth rate fell to its second-lowest in five decades to a paltry 3 per cent in 2022.
India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country in 2023, according to a recent report, World Population Prospects 2022, by the population division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. India is projected to have a population of 1.668 billion in 2050, more than China's 1.317 billion by the middle of this century, the report said.
"China and India are countries with a big population and we have ample resources in the working force. This is a strong internal dynamic for economic development," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. "The two countries should take advantage of their population dividend to develop each other's respective national development and make greater contributions to the international community," he said.
China registered about 9.56 million newborns last year, down from 10.62 million in 2021, according to the NBS.
The country’s birth rate was 6.77 births per 1,000 people in 2022, down from 7.52 in 2021, it said. The death rate nationwide was 7.37 per 1,000 people last year, putting the natural growth rate at negative 0.6 per 1,000 people.
China's total population size peaked in 2022, much earlier than expected, which means the country's population will maintain a negative growth from 2023 or enter an era of negative growth, former deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Cai Fang said previously.
The negative population growth was the inevitable result of the country's long-term low fertility rate and China's population entering an era of zero growth, Yuan Xin, a professor from the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University's School of Economics, said in 2022.
China implemented a third-child policy in May 2021 and rolled out a series of stimulus measures to boost population growth. A number of cities, provinces and regions across the country have rolled out incentive policies such as issuing subsidies to families with a second or third child.
In terms of age structure, the working-age population between 16 and 59 stood at 875.56 million, accounting for 62 per cent of the national population, and the population aged 60 or above reached 280.04 million, accounting for 19.8 per cent of the total population.
Around 209.78 million were aged 65 or above, accounting for 14.9 per cent of the total population, the NBS said.
China, previously an agrarian country, has now been rapidly urbanised with 920.71 million living in urban areas, an increase of 6.46 million by the end of 2021, totalling to 65.22 per cent. The permanent residents in rural areas declined to 491.04 million, a decline of 7.31 million. The share of urban population in the total population was 65.22 per cent, 0.50 percentage point higher than that at the end of the previous year, according to the NBS data.
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