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China population dropped last year! Birth rate plummeting. Demographic nightmare.

China has flooded the global labor market with 260 million new workers during the past 13 years (compared to only 60 million for the US & EU). That's the major factor that has depressed global wages and is coming to an abrupt end. China is now entering a new phase leading to a massive labor shortage as its population ages and too few kids are coming to replace retirees.


The book below (The Great Demographic Reversal) takes a deep dive into this phenom. If you're interested in global economics, it's a great read. Snitz highly recommends.


China’s Population Declined in 2022 for First Time in Decades

Latest figures revive question of whether India is already more populous


Beijing has for years acknowledged China’s demographic challenges.


By Liyan Qi, WSJ


China has hit a historic turning point as its population begins to shrink after years of falling birthrates, a new reality for a country that for a long time has been the world’s most populous.


The National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday that China’s population dropped to 1.412 billion in 2022, from 1.413 billion in 2021. It was the first decline since the early 1960s, when the country was devastated by famine after Mao Zedong launched his “Great Leap Forward.”


The number of births declined to 9.56 million from 10.62 million in 2021, Tuesday’s data showed. China’s birthrate—the number of births per thousand people—dropped to 6.77 in 2022, compared with 7.52 in 2021.


The data revived the question of whether China has already lost the status of the most populous country to India, whose estimated 1.4 billion population is still growing.


To underline the contrast: While United Nations forecasts see China eking out just above 10 million births in 2023, it estimates that around 23 million babies will be born in India. The U.N.’s forecasts, released in July, predicted that India will surpass China as the world’s most populous country this year.


At the root of China’s population decline is the reluctance of many young Chinese to have children. Births saw a brief uptick in 2016, after Beijing abolished its decadeslong “one-child policy,” but have slipped every year since, and dropped further during the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Covid-19 restrictions in place for most of 2022 severely cut into Chinese economic activity, adding to the hesitation of young Chinese about getting married or having children.


The number of deaths, which in recent years has been neck-and-neck with births, increased to 10.41 million in 2022, from 10.14 million in 2021.


China’s counting of deaths and births are based on a sample of households, except once a decade when it carries out a nationwide census. Kang Yi, the head of China’s statistics bureau, said in a briefing after the data release that the official estimates of births and deaths for 2022 were based on calculations as of early November. That means the data doesn’t reflect deaths in December, when China saw a surge in Covid-19 infections after Beijing ended its strict pandemic restrictions.


China’s National Health Commission said this weekend that hospitals had recorded roughly 60,000 Covid-related deaths since the government scrapped most pandemic controls in early December. The release of the number followed criticism from public-health experts, including at the World Health Organization, that China wasn’t accurately accounting for the toll of the outbreak now sweeping the country.


Beijing has for years acknowledged the demographic challenges, but predicted in a blueprint released in 2017 that the country’s population would continue to grow until 2030. A more downbeat reality gradually sank in, and last year officials forecast that the population would start dropping by 2025 or before. In the second half of 2022, many demographers said they expected China to post a population decline for the year.


China’s steep decline in births, especially compared with India’s, is likely to have big economic consequences.


India benefits from a younger workforce and younger population which helps it attract investment and build a stronger consumer market, said Manoj Kewalramani, chairman of the Indo-Pacific studies program at India’s Takshashila Institution think tank. “Not too many older people will be shopping for new cars, new gadgets, new homes,” he said. But he said having a large young population isn’t necessarily a blessing as providing education and job opportunities has been challenging.


As Beijing shifts from seeking to control Covid-19 to trying to revive growth, a shrinking population means softening demand for property, a pillar of economic growth for China, said Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The hyped expectations for a strong recovery in the Chinese economy post zero-Covid might be too optimistic,” he said.


It has become increasingly hard for the Chinese government to convince young people to have more children to support a rapidly aging population. Already, one out of every five Chinese is 60 years or older.


Since China allowed couples to have three children in 2021, local governments have tried anything from cash rewards and longer maternity leaves. To facilitate marriages, local officials have organized matchmaking events and sought to limit dowry payments.


In the latest move to encourage births, the southeastern metropolis of Shenzhen last week announced a plan to give local residents up to 10,000 yuan, equivalent to $1,484, as a lump-sum birth allowance and up to 3,000 yuan each year in child-rearing costs until the child is three years old.


Such efforts haven’t seemed to yield much in terms of results. China’s marriage registrations, following a sharp decline in 2021, continued to drop over the first nine months of last year, the latest official data showed.


Underlying factors, such as the dwindling number of women of childbearing age, coupled with impact from the Covid-19 control measures, accelerated the population decline.


In recent years, Beijing has put more emphasis on women’s role in educating children and caring for the elderly as birth and marriage rates drop. Meanwhile, more young women are rejecting traditional family values touted by the government and older generations.


An art student in the western city of Xi’an said she is focusing on finishing her degree and promoting social justice, especially women’s-rights issues outside classrooms.


“No marriage, no kids for me as long as our society is still so unfair to women,” said the Xi’an native.


The student, who participated in nationwide protests in late November against Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, said she and her friends have found their voices after a series of high-profile incidents of violence against women in different parts of China, including footage of a trafficked woman who had been chained in a shed, which sparked nationwide outrage early last year.


China has recently revised a women’s-rights law, which introduced safeguards against sexual harassment and workplace discrimination against women, but also introduced a list of moral standards for women to uphold, including “respecting social morals, professional ethics and family values.”


Xiao Xiao contributed to this article.


Write to Liyan Qi at Liyan.qi@wsj.com

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