China: further decline in births in 2020

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The number of births registered in China fell by nearly 15% year on year in 2020, for the fourth year in a row, another sign of the little impact of the relaxation of family planning in the country.

China, which since 1979 required couples to have only one child to limit the then galloping population growth, has allowed them since 2016 to have two to limit the aging of the country.

According to data released Monday by the Ministry of Public Security, 10.04 million births were registered in 2020, 14.8% lower than the official number of registered births for 2019.

The sex ratio was 52.7% boys and 47.3% girls.

The official number of total births, announced separately, stood in 2019 at 14.65 million. This figure, which is not yet available for 2020, is traditionally higher than that of registered births because not all parents register their child immediately.

The figure announced Monday for registered births is “lower than the number of people who pass the university entrance exam” and aging will become a growing problem, said a user on the social network Weibo.

For another Weibo user, this is “the most serious crisis facing the Chinese nation”.

The shift in demographic policy since 2016 has not significantly pushed couples to have more babies, due in particular to urbanization and the cost of living. The birth rate last year was even the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

“If all of society considers having children as suffering, then there is a problem in this society,” warns another user on Weibo.

The announcement of the latest data comes after a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy and raised employment concerns for many families.

In November, China launched its first post-one-child census which will, among other things, determine whether the end of this policy has led to a significant increase in the population. Analysis of the results should take two years.

According to government estimates, the census should show a population of 1.42 billion (+ 5.99% in 10 years).

But a Chinese research institute published in October a study, much commented on in the country, which considered this forecast far too optimistic and called for allowing three children per couple.

Experts estimate that it will take 15 years to see the effects of the “two-child” policy. Because other factors come to limit births, in particular the longer studies of women and their desire to have a baby later.

At the same time, the number of retirees in China is expected to reach 300 million by 2025.

The census is a gigantic operation carried out every ten years and the previous one, carried out in 2010, had reported a population of 1,339,724,852 people. The increase since 2000 (+ 5.83%) had been over 73 million inhabitants, more than the population of a country like France.

In December, Chinese state media quoted Civil Affairs Minister Li Jiheng as saying that the country’s fertility rate had “fallen dangerously”, well below the population replacement rate of 2.1 births. per woman.

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