China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the population of the country, the most populous in the world, will experience negative growth before 2025 and advocated promoting policies that boost fertility again, including the abolition of “restrictive measures”.
The information, collected today by the official Global Times newspaper, appears in an article published in the state magazine Oiushi Journal and is the first time that the authorities openly acknowledge that the Chinese population -1,412 million people according to the 2021 census- will decrease in brief.
The Asian giant has not recorded a population decline since the early 1960s, when the famine caused by the state policy of the ‘Great Leap Forward’ caused the death of some 30 million people, according to estimated calculations.
On July 25, the director of the population and family affairs department of the National Health Commission, Yang Wenzhuang, quoted by local media, already advanced that the country would enter “negative growth” before 2025.
The report argues that “it is time to review and abolish important restrictive measures, make fertility policy more inclusive, improve child care services and introduce active support measures to reduce the economic burdens on the population and improve the capacity of families to develop.”
In China, the law does not allow single women to freeze their eggs, but it does allow men to preserve their sperm, a discrimination that has sparked debate in recent years.
The birth rate, which has fallen to 1.3% in recent years, “has become the main risk to the balanced development of the Chinese population,” says the GT.
At the same time, population aging has increased along with the growth of the world’s second largest economy and it is expected that by 2035 people over sixty years of age will constitute more than 30% of the population compared to the current 18%.
The Commission also highlights that the average size of the Chinese family has fallen by 0.48 in the last decade to stand at 2.62 people in 2020.
Given this scenario, the organization considers it “vital” to improve the population’s quality of life and modify economic development plans to deal with negative growth that “will be the dominant trend in the coming years and for a long time.”
“In the past we focused on population control but now we must focus on raising the level of fertility, improving the quality and structure of the population, optimizing its distribution and promoting balanced and long-term population development,” the report states.
Among the measures that it suggests to promote the birth rate are policies to support housing, education, health, employment and the payment of taxes aimed at families with children in order to “reduce the burden of childrearing, stimulate the desire of families to grow up and create a child-friendly social atmosphere.
After decades of imposing a one-child policy and later expanding it to two, China has allowed its citizens to have a third child since last year, although the decision has not been welcomed with great enthusiasm by the population, due both to the economic burden that It assumes parenting as the priority that many women decide to give to their careers.
According to figures published this month, last year was the year with the lowest number of births in many Chinese provinces and only the southeastern province of Guangzhou, the most populous in the country, saw the birth of more than a million children in that year.
The population of other provinces such as Hunan (center) or Jiangxi (center) fell to the lowest level for almost 60 and 70 years, respectively.
International experts have predicted that neighboring India, with a population of some 1.38 billion today, will overtake China in the near future to become the most populous country on Earth.