China is set to report its first decline in population since records began in 1949 despite the relaxation of the strict family planning policies
China is set to report first population decline within the country since records began in 1949 despite the relaxation of the nation’s strict family planning policies, that was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the most populous country in the world.
Officials are preparing response to census data that should have been released weeks ago
The latest census in China, that had been completed in December but is yet to have been made public, is expected to report the total population of the country being at less than 1.4bn, according to people who are familiar with the census research.
In 2019, the Chinese population was reported to have exceeded the mark of 1.4bn people. These people cautioned, however, that this figure was considered to be very sensitive to China and would not be revealed until multiple government departments have reached a consensus on the data and its implications.
This comes after Oxygen cylinders and ventilators landed in Delhi from the UK, but far more will be required, with India recording 320,000 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, with total deaths rising close to 200,000.
“The census results will have a huge impact on how the Chinese people see their country and how various government departments work,” said Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think-tank. “They need to be handled very carefully.”
The government had been scheduled to release the census back in early April.
Liu Aihua, who is a spokesperson at the National Bureau of Statistics, said on April the 16th that this delay was partly due to the need for “more preparation work” ahead of an official announcement from the government department.
The delay has been largely criticised on social media platforms, with local officials having also braced for the release of the date. The deputy director of Anhui province’s statistics bureau, Chen Longgan, said in a meeting this month that officials should “set the agenda” for the census interpretation and should “pay close attention to public reaction”.
Analysts said that a population decline would suggest that China’s population could peak earlier than the official projections and could soon be exceeded by that of India, which is currently estimated as being at 1.38bn.
The Chinese population expanded under the one-child policy that was introduced in the late 1970s, thanks to a bulging population of young people amid the aftermath of the Communist revolution as well as an increase in life expectancy.
Official data showed that the number of newborns in China increased in 2016 but then fell consecutively for three years. Officials blamed the decline on the shrinking number of young women and the surging costs on raising children.
This comes after China temporarily blocked a team of experts from the WHO that has been planning a trip to investigate COVID origins, in conjunction with the Chinese government, since July. The head of the World Health Organisation has said he is “very disappointed” China has denied its experts access to investigating the origins of coronavirus.
The real picture could be even worse. In a report published last week, China’s central bank estimated that the total fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman was likely to have in her lifetime, was less than 1.5, compared with the official estimate of 1.8.
“It is almost a fact that China has overestimated its birth rate,” the People’s Bank of China said
“The challenges brought about by China’s demographic shift could be bigger [than expected].” A Beijing-based government adviser who declined to be identified said such overestimates stemmed in part from the fiscal system’s use of population figures to determine budgets, including for education and public security.