China: Birth rate plunges into critical level

| 17 Feb 2021

The birth rate in China has plunged past a warning level with a recent report from the public security authorities showing that the country registered only 10m newborns in 2020, 15% lower than in 2019.

According to a report published by a research centre under the Ministry of Public Security, the number of newborn babies registered with public security organs was 10.03m last year. The number in 2019 was 11.79m, reported Global Times.

Though the exact number of new births will not be announced until April by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), He Yafu, an expert on population issues, said that the total number of births in 2020 was around 12.54m based on the estimated annual household registration rate in China, which is about 80%.

The actual number of newborns each year would usually be bigger than the official registration figure—because some babies weren’t registered in time and hence were not counted by the Public Security Ministry.


The number of newborns in China has been on a steady decline. 16.55m babies were born in 2015, down from 16.87m in 2014. However, in 2016, the number surged to 17.86m when the central government officially ended the one-child policy that started in 1979 to allow married couples to have two children wef 1 January 2016. After 2016, the number of births has decreased every year – 17.23m in 2017; 15.23m in 2018 and 14.65m in 2019, according to data released by the NBS.

Mu Guangzong, a professor at the Institute of Population Research at Peking University, told Global Times that the main reason for the decline is the low desire among young couples to have children due to the high cost of supporting a child. He noted that for many young couples, the general housing and education policies in China as well as the social environment as a whole do not encourage them to have kids.

The increasingly unbalanced sex ratio in China, in favour of males, might also be a factor in the decline, he said, as the growing number of single people will squeeze the marriage market in the country. Among the 10m registered newborns in 2020, boys accounted for 52.7%.

China's total male population was 715.27m at the end of 2019, outnumbering the female population by 30.49m, according to the NBS.

Minister of Civil Affairs Li Jiheng said in December 2020 that China's population development had entered a critical turning point.

China had 254m senior citizens aged 60 or above in 2019, representing 18% of the whole population of 1.4bn. This is expected to expand to 300m by 2025.

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