Jan 17, 2024 - World

China's population drops second year straight as births continue decline

Data: China's National Bureau of Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: China's National Bureau of Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

China's population fell for the second year in a row in 2023, as deaths outpaced births in what was once the world's most populous country.

Why it matters: China's declining population is emblematic of a demographic downturn that reflects economic and social changes in the country.

  • Chinese authorities see the declining population as an existential threat to its economic future.

The big picture: In 2022, China saw its first population decline since the 1960s, though it still had a population of 1.41175 billion people.

  • China's population declined for a second consecutive year in 2023, dropping by about 2.08 million to 1.409 billion people, the country's National Bureau of Statistics announced Wednesday.
  • About 9.02 million babies were born in 2023, compared to 9.56 million the year before.
  • Deaths were also on the rise. China saw 11.1 million people die in 2023, up from 10.41 million in 2022.

Between the lines: 2023 marked the seventh year in a row the total number of births in China has declined, per AP.

  • The annual birth rate in 2023 — 6.39 births per thousand people — is the lowest since the founding of Communist China in 1949, CNN reported.

State of play: Birth rates have been suppressed for decades in China as a result of its one-child policy, which was abolished in late 2015.

  • Chinese officials have tried to encourage the country's women to have more babies with offers of cheaper housing and tax benefits, but the efforts have proven unsuccessful, the New York Times reported.
  • Last year, India overtook China as the world's most populated country.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: A shrinking population means a smaller workforce.

  • China's aging population means that current workers — many of whom have no siblings — face the economic and emotional burden of caring for their retired parents alone.
  • Both trends could further suppress China's future economic growth.
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