China population: 2023 births could plunge by a quarter from record low set last year, academic warns

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Births in China could drop below 8 million this year, setting a record low and further clouding the country’s gloomy demographic outlook, according to a leading medical academic.

“The expected number of births in 2023 is estimated to be around 7 million to 8 million,” Qiao Jie, dean of the Health Science Centre at Peking University, said on Tuesday at a forum on innovations in medical technologies.

She added that the number of Chinese newborns has been cut by around 40 per cent in the past five years, and that improving female fertility is the key to increasing China’s fertility rate.

Illustrating just how bad she believes the situation has got, last year’s 9.56 million births in China represented the lowest total in modern history, and it was the first time the figure had dipped below 10 million.

The country’s plunging birth rate has increased public concern in recent years, with discussions pushed to new heights when it was revealed that China’s population shrank by 850,000 people last year, marking the first such fall since 1961.

The United Nations said in April that India was on the precipice of overtaking China as the world’s most populous country.

Population decline in the world’s second-largest economy could have profound economic consequences, including the deepening of an ageing society, reduced demands in housing and in the consumer market, as well as a shrinking labour pool and pension challenges.

Despite a slew of pronatalist incentives and slogans being rolled out across the country to encourage births, demographic experts have conceded that immediate effects are unlikely, while China should accept and adapt to the new norm.

Qiao pointed out that the reproductive capacity of childbearing-age women is a cause for concern, and this includes a further decrease in the number of childbearing-age women, increasing rates of infertility, and a high incidence of adverse pregnancies.

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