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China's population shrinks for 2nd year as birth rate plunges to record low

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China's population has declined for the second consecutive year, with a record-low birth rate and increased COVID-19 deaths contributing to the downturn in 2023.

The data: The nation’s total population dropped by 2.75 million (0.2%) to 1.409 billion, surpassing the decline in 2022. Deaths rose by 6.6% to 11.1 million, reaching the highest rate since 1974, and the birthrate, which fell by 5.7% to 9.02 million, hit a historic low at 6.39 births per 1,000 people, reported Reuters.

Factors of the decline: Various factors, including the nation’s one-child policy and urbanization, have contributed to the declining births for decades. Economic challenges, youth unemployment, falling wages and property crisis also further impact childbirth rates.

Challenges such as high childcare and education costs, job market uncertainty and gender discrimination have discouraged couples from having children. Despite government incentives and educational efforts, local policy implementation remains inadequate. Public reluctance to have children persists, emphasizing the difficulty of reversing the demographic trend.

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China's demographic challenges: Concerns have arisen about China’s growth prospects, as fewer workers and consumers coupled with rising elderly care costs strain local governments. China's aging population is expected to reach over 400 million by 2035.

Demographers propose further reforms, with some hoping for a post-pandemic baby boom or increased births in the Chinese zodiac Year of the Dragon in 2024.

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