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China’s population begins to decline

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News analysis

The Chinese regime said on August 1 that China’s population has begun to decline and the problems of aging and low birth rate have worsened.

It is the first time that Beijing has announced that its population has been in a negative growth phase since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949.

“China’s total fertility rate (TSF) has been below 1.3 in recent years… Women’s willingness to have children continues to decline,” the National Health Commission wrote in the magazine. of State Qiushi on August 1. “Women of reproductive age want to have 1.64 children on average in 2021. It’s less than 1.73 in 2019 and 1.76 in 2017.”

Chinese women have babies in their 20s and early 30s. “The ‘post-90’ (23-32 years) and the ‘post-00’ (13-22) are the great generations to procreate. They want 1.54 and 1.48 children in their lifetime,” the commission said.

TFR is the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime. A community can be maintained when the TFR remains above 2.1, according to the United Nations.

A boy uses an umbrella in Nanlouguxiang Alley in Beijing, China on July 27, 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

“A declining population is a nightmare for the Chinese economy. China needs enough low-paid workers because it is the factory of the world,” Wang He, the American commentator on China affairs, told The Epoch Times on Aug. 3. “In fact, in previous years we have seen the negative consequences of the declining population.

These impacts include factories having to pay higher wages to workers, which could increase manufacturing costs in China and make them higher than in other developing countries; social security no longer having enough money to cover pensioners’ benefits; schools close due to insufficient enrolment; and maternity hospitals and businesses caring for children filing for bankruptcy, Wang said.

Demographic decline

“[China’s population] will enter the period of negative growth in the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025),” the National Health Commission wrote. He called on the Chinese people to “take responsibility” for having more children as an “urgent” task.

A low fertility rate leads to a relative increase in the aging of the population. The commission predicted that over 30% of China’s population will be over 60 by 2035.

This assertion is corroborated by the UN study published on 11 July. According to the study, China’s population began to decline in the first half of 2022, will continue to decline and, on the current trajectory, would be nearly halved by 2100.

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A boy stands behind the fence of a residential area under COVID-19 control in Beijing, China on June 14, 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s demographic shift is different from that of Western countries. As nations have grown wealthier, fertility rates have declined in developed countries. The Chinese regime imposed one child per family in the late 1970s, when the majority of Chinese lived in poverty.

Tens of millions of fetuses were destroyed by this policy, which also caused gender inequality because women had sex-selective abortions and some families even abandoned or killed female infants. Consequently, there are fewer potential mothers today than there would have been if the one-child restriction had not been in place.

The scheme recognized the demographic problem in the 2010s and changed its one-child restriction to a two-child limit and then to a three-child policy.

The National Health Commission said the main barriers to childbearing are the financial burden of raising a child, lack of childcare and women’s concerns about career advancement.

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A newborn baby at a private obstetric hospital in Wuhan, China on Feb. 21, 2020. (Getty Images)

Undesirable consequences

“A diminished demographic advantage hurts China’s economy,” Wang said. “The biggest problem is that there will be a shortage of cheap labor for manufacturing.”

China has become an industrial powerhouse since the regime opened its borders to trade in December 1978. The huge population working hard for low wages has been the driving force. However, the situation changed in the late 2010s when Chinese state-run media revealed that manufacturers were unable to fill positions even when offering higher salaries.

A drop in manufacturing capacity also has an impact on the domestic market. People have to spend more to get the same products.

“We have seen an increase in the number of global brands shifting production from China to Vietnam, Thailand and other developing countries,” Wang said. “The trade war between the United States and China (which raised tariffs to 25%) contributed to these migrations, but the main reason is that China no longer has the high quality labor and low cost it had before.”

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A girl visits Disneytown on June 16, 2022 in Shanghai, China. Disneytown and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel resumed operations today, coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort. (Hu Chengwei/Getty Images)

Chinese citizens with urban household records are eligible for social security benefits, others are not. In addition, persons registered as urban households and their employers contribute to social security. These sums are used to pay social security benefits for retirees.

However, the Chinese regime first said in November 2020 that the working-age population had shrunk compared to the non-working-age population.

In March, China’s Ministry of Finance released data that the regime had to add nearly 700 billion yuan (about $104 billion) to fill the gap in social security benefits. The ministry predicted that the social security program will face a shortfall of 8 trillion to 10 trillion yuan (about $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion) in 5 to 10 years.

“Retirees in Heilongjiang, Liaoning and several other provinces found that they did not receive their social security benefits on time,” Wang said.

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A woman leads an elderly man down a street in Beijing, China on June 2, 2022. (Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images)

Due to the low birth rate, maternity wards are unable to accommodate enough patients to sustain operations, the state-run China Newsweek reported on March 26.

Beijing’s Dongba Hospital maternity ward delivers 3,000 to 5,000 babies a year, according to the report. This prosperity has disappeared in recent years. The department delivered fewer than 150 infants in 2021.

“Our hospital [Dongba] can close our ward at any time,” a maternity nurse told China Newsweek. “In the future, pregnant women who live nearby will have to go to other hospitals.”

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Nicole Hao

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Nicole Hao is a Washington-based journalist specializing in China-related topics. Prior to joining Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway company in Paris, France.