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China's lack of new kids is worse than you thought!

Seriously? You were unaware of China's demographic nightmare! Don't you read the Report? Nobody is doing the horizontal bop over there.

At least not with live bullets. What I meant to say...forget it I need to shut the f-ck up.

China’s Fertility Rate Dropped Sharply, Study Shows

A Chinese media report gave rare insight into the country’s demographic crisis since Beijing stopped publishing fertility-rate data

China’s total fertility rate—the average number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime—fell to 1.09 last year, a study showed. WU HAO/SHUTTERSTOCK

By Liyan Qi, WSJ

Updated Aug. 19, 2023

A Chinese state-media report this week cited a sharp drop in the country’s fertility rate, offering a rare glimpse into China’s deepening demographic plight and highlighting the country’s increasing lack of transparency on data.

China’s total fertility rate—a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—fell to 1.09 last year, from 1.30 in 2020, according to a study by a unit of the National Health Commission cited this week by National Business Daily, a media outlet managed by the municipal government of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

At 1.09, China’s rate would be below the 1.26 of Japan, a country long known for its aging society—throwing one of Beijing’s long-term challenges into sharp relief even as the country struggles with an economic slowdown right now.

“As the fertility rate approaches close to one birth per woman, it has increasingly become a serious concern for Chinese authorities,” said Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

China’s economy is staggering under challenges including weakening exports, a prolonged real-estate slump, rising youth unemployment and sluggish consumer spending. In the years ahead, a shrinking workforce is expected to apply increasing pressure. Some scholars have pointed to a general malaise about the direction of the country as it turns more inward under leader Xi Jinping and after three years of Covid-induced isolation.

As economic challenges have mounted, Beijing has reduced the amount of data it releases to the public. On Tuesday, China said that it would suspend publication of youth-unemployment data after several months of increases that had pushed joblessness for those ages 16 to 24 to a series of record highs. It cited plans to revisit the methodology.

April 26: China had been the most populous nation in the world since at least 1750. WSJ examines what the shift could mean for each country and the global economy. Photo illustration: Jacob Anderson Nelson/WSJ

Earlier this year, China ceased publishing an official gauge of consumer confidence, which has hovered around record low levels since April 2022.

Beijing’s reluctance to publicize figures showing Chinese women having fewer children stretches back several years. The National Bureau of Statistics stopped releasing annual data on total fertility rate in 2017, leaving scholars searching for alternative windows into the country’s changing demographics.

The statistics bureau made an exception when it published its once-a-decade census results in 2020. It reported the country had a total fertility rate of 1.3, well below the 2.1 needed to help keep the population stable.

Earlier this year, China released a data set that showed its population started shrinking last year for the first time since the 1960s, prompting the United Nations to declare that China had ceded to India its long-held title as the world’s most populous country.

Chinese authorities appeared to be censoring the media report citing the fertility rate of 1.09, as well as online discussion about it. The report and a social-media post by the National Business Daily have been removed. The newspaper, the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Health Commission all failed to reply to requests for comments.

A hashtag about the report initially attracted attention on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo earlier this week, but then became unsearchable. Clicking on the hashtag yielded a message: “Based on relevant regulations and policies, content related to this topic is forbidden.”

The 1.09 figure, while a steep decline from 1.3 two years earlier, is roughly in line with the estimates of many demographers, who have based their calculations on measures such as the fertility rates for different age groups.

Yuwa Population Research, a group of half a dozen Chinese demographers and economists, estimated China’s fertility rate last year at 1.07. In declaring that India’s population had surpassed China’s, the U.N. had assumed a fertility rate of 1.18 in China for 2022. China’s fertility rate ranks among the lowest in the world but continues to top South Korea’s rate of around 0.8 and the rate of 0.9 in Hong Kong, which compiles separate statistics from the mainland.

Chinese authorities have had an uphill fight encouraging babies after decades of strict controls on the number of children families could have. The official and scholarly consensus is that the drop in births has been accelerated by high child-rearing costs. A more recent factor has been the economic headwinds that have hurt young people’s confidence in the future.

“As the population peaks, China is showing signs of Japanification,” Yin Jianfeng, deputy director of the National Institution for Finance and Development, a state-backed think tank, wrote in an article published in June. Yin urged the Chinese government to spend more on child rearing and education to avoid the fate of Japan, which experienced decades of stagnation.

One sign of falling confidence in the future, experts say, is the increasing reluctance of young Chinese to marry and start a family. Marriage registrations last year were down 10.5% from a year earlier, to 6.83 million, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The ministry is expected to release marriage data for the first half of 2023 this month, though some scholars have speculated that Beijing may delay or suspend this data.

“China is at a juncture in many ways. Most notably many young Chinese have seemed to have lost hope for tomorrow,” said Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin who has studied China’s demographics.

Yi expects fewer than eight million newborns in China this year, based on indicators including marriage and newborn-medical-checkup data. That would be less than half the number in 2016, when China scrapped its one-child policy and recorded around 18 million births. By last year, the figure had fallen below 10 million.

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