China’s population shrank for the first time since the 1960s, putting it one step closer to India overtaking China as the world’s most populated nation.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said during a briefing on yearly data on Tuesday that the population of the nation decreased in 2022 to 1.411 billion, down about 850,000 people from the previous year.

The last time China’s population fell was in 1961, when a famine across the nation claimed the lives of tens of millions of people.

Shoppers on January 14 at a market in Dali, Yunnan.
The first population fall in 60 years occurs in China.
This time, a number of factors are to blame for the decline, including the extensive effects of China’s one-child policy, which it instituted in the 1980s but has since abandoned, the changing attitudes of Chinese youth toward marriage and family, entrenched gender inequality, and the difficulties of raising children in the country’s pricey cities.

As the second-largest economy in the world, China plays a significant role in fostering global growth, but experts warn that if the trend is prolonged, it might also cause issues for the rest of the globe.

China’s workforce is aging, which is already an issue, and a declining population is likely to make matters worse as the country tries to recover from the pandemic.

Why is this taking place
China’s one-child policy, which for more than 35 years prohibited families from having more than one child, is partially to blame for the population reduction. Women who violated the rule were frequently subjected to forced abortions, large penalties, and eviction.

The government abolished the restriction after becoming concerned about the recent decline in the birth rate. Couples were permitted to have two children in 2015, and this number was increased to three in 2021. But for a variety of reasons, the legislative change and other government initiatives, like providing financial incentives, haven’t had much of an impact.

Major contributing causes include increasing house prices and high living and educational costs. Many people, particularly those living in cities, struggle with stagnant salaries, a lack of job possibilities, and long workdays that make it challenging and expensive to raise even one child, let alone three.

SHANGHAI, CHINA – APRIL 09: On April 9, 2022, a medical professional collects nucleic acid samples from a youngster at a gated community after Shanghai implemented a citywide lockdown to stop the COVID-19 epidemic. (Image courtesy of VCG/Shen Chunchen via Getty Images)
The rigorous lockdowns in China may make the population crisis worse because “we are the last generation”
These problems are made worse by persistent gender roles that frequently assign women the bulk of household duties and child care. Because women are now more educated and financially independent than ever before, they are becoming increasingly unwilling to shoulder this unfair burden. Employers are frequently unwilling to pay for maternity leave, and women have also reported experiencing discrimination at work based on their marital or parental status.

Measures like improved child care options and paternity leave have already started to be implemented in some towns and provinces. But a lot of feminists and campaigners feel it’s not nearly enough.

With a disillusioned younger population whose livelihoods and well-being were undermined by China’s strict zero-Covid policy, frustrations further exacerbated throughout the pandemic.

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China’s implications from this
The demographic issues China now has are likely to get worse as a result of a declining population. The younger generation is under a great deal of stress as a result of the nation’s aging population and declining labor force.

According to officials’ estimates released on Tuesday, nearly a fifth of China’s population is elderly. According to some experts, the nation may be on the same route as Japan, which had three decades of economic stagnation at the beginning of the 1990s, which also happened to be the time of its aging population.

According to HSBC’s senior Asia economist Frederic Neumann, “The Chinese economy is approaching a critical transition period, no longer able to rely on an abundant, cost-competitive worker force to drive industrialization and growth.”

“To maintain the economy’s rapid pace of expansion, productivity growth will need to pick up when the supply of workers starts to decline.”

On Saturday, January 14, 2023, people are walking down Chunxi Road in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China.
Due to Covid, China experiences one of its worst economic performances in decades.
Due to months of Covid lockdowns and a record decline in the real estate market, China’s economy will only grow by 3% in 2022, one of the worst performances in over 50 years.

Since fewer people are employed, recovery could become even more difficult if China restarts international travel and lifts many of the onerous restrictions it has maintained for the previous five years.

There are also societal repercussions. As the population ages, there will be fewer employees to pay for pensions and healthcare, which will result in a rise in demand for these services and put pressure on China’s social security system.

Due to the fact that many young people are already working to support their parents and two sets of grandparents, there will also be fewer people to care for the elderly.

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implication for the world
China’s problems may affect the rest of the globe because of its importance as the engine of the global economy.

The epidemic has demonstrated how China’s internal issues can impact the flow of trade and investment, as border controls and lockdowns have a negative impact on supply chains.

A weakening Chinese economy could undermine China’s goal to surpass the US as the greatest economy, in addition to slowing down global growth.

In an article published on its website in August of last year, the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies stated that “China’s limited ability to react to this demographic shift will likely lead to slower growth outcomes in the next twenty to thirty years and impact its ability to compete on the world stage with the United States.”

India, whose population and economy are both rising, appears to have a good chance of overtaking China this year as the most populated country in the world.

The government of China is concerned that millennials there aren’t getting married.
Yi Fuxian, a student of Chinese demographics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tweeted that “India is the largest winner.”

While Yi acknowledged that India’s GDP would someday overtake the US, there is still a long way to go. After passing the United Kingdom last year to become the fifth-largest economy in the world, several analysts have expressed concern that India isn’t producing enough jobs to accommodate its growing labor population.

The news from China may, however, have a positive side, according to some researchers.

A decreased population is a blessing, not a problem, for climate change and the environment, tweeted Mary Gallagher, the head of the University of Michigan’s International Institute.

NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus said that “exponentially accelerated global warming and biodiversity loss” should be prioritized over “seeing population decline as a horrible thing.”

the actions taken by the government
Officials in China have increased their efforts to support larger families, notably through a multi-agency plan unveiled last year to expand maternity leave and provide tax discounts and other benefits to families.

In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to “enhance the population development strategy” and lessen the financial strain on families.

“[We] will set up a policy structure to increase birth rates and lower the costs of childbearing, childrearing, and education,” Xi declared. In response to the aging population, “we will adopt a proactive national policy, develop aged care programs and services, and improve services for elderly individuals who live alone.”

BEIJING, February 28, 2019 A photo shot on February 19, 2019 shows the cole flower fields in Panzhihua City’s Puwei Township, Sichuan Province in southwest China. China seeks improved coordination between economic and social growth and ecological civilization and has produced noticeable gains. Clear streams and lush mountains are considered to be “invaluable assets.” (Image credit: Xinhua via ZUMA Wire)
Chinese villages are offering incentives to couples to have more children.
Some areas even provide financial incentives to promote more births. In 2021, a hamlet in southern Guangdong province made the announcement that it would pay permanent inhabitants with children under the age of two and a half up to $510 per month, or a maximum of more than $15,000 per child. For couples with numerous children, housing subsidies have been made available in other regions.

However, many experts and locals claim that much more extensive national reforms are required because those efforts have not yet yielded any results. Following the publication of the news on Tuesday, the hashtag “To Encourage Childbirth, You Must First Solve the Worries of Young People” gained popularity on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

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