May 11, 2021 - World

China's slowest population growth in decades raises labor force concerns

A newborn baby is seen being cared for in the ward of the hospital neonatal care center in Fuyang, Anhui, China, on April 25.
A newborn being cared for in a neonatal care center at a hospital in Fuyang, Anhui, China, on April 25. Photo: SheldonCooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

China's population increased 72 million over the past 10 years to 1.41 billion in 2020, with an annual average growth rate of 0.53%, data published by the country's National Bureau of Statistics Tuesday shows.

Why it matters: It's the slowest population growth for over half a century. The birth rate also dropped for the fourth consecutive year in 2020, with 12 million babies born, raising the prospect of a "demographic crisis that could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy," per the New York Times.

Between the lines: China's government imposed a repressive one-child policy to slow population growth in 1979. It eased this limit on couples to two children in 2016.

The big picture: The census revealed the number of over 65s in China rose from 8.9% in 2010 to 13.5%, the number of children increased 1.35% and the working population remained steady.

  • Peking University population studies professor Lu Jiehua said "the fast decline in the working-age population" was a great concern, AP reports.
  • This group was three-quarters of 2011's total and was expected to fall to "just above half by 2050," Lu said.

Go deeper: U.S. population growth is on a downward slope

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