Despite the recent efforts of its government, China’s birth rate is falling. According to data released on January 18th by the National Bureau of Statistics, there were 10.6m births in 2021, 1.4m fewer than the previous year. For five consecutive years population growth has slowed, and last year the number of deaths, at 10.1m, approached the number of births, suggesting that the population may soon start to shrink.
This is a headache for the Chinese Communist Party. Its leaders worry that an ageing population and shrinking workforce will dent the country’s economic growth. After decades of a one-child policy designed to limit population growth, the government has tried to change gear. In 2016 couples were allowed to have a second child for the first time in more than 35 years—and last year the limit was upped to three. The government now tells its people, particularly women, that it is their patriotic duty to have more children. There are plenty of inducements to encourage more energetic procreation, too, including more state-funded childcare and better protection against workplace discrimination for women. Employers often illegally ask women about their childbearing plans in job interviews; some even force female recruits to sign contracts promising not to have children for several years.
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There were 10.6m births in 2021, 1.4m fewer than the previous year, according to recent data by the National Bureau of Statistics https://t.co/AH4m5E7NPx
— The Economist Data Team (@ECONdailycharts) January 19, 2022