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China’s population drops for second year with dark forecasts for its economy

Jan 17

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China’s government just announced its population has declined for the second straight year. Once the world’s most populous country, India officially surpassed China in 2023. Experts say the future of China’s workforce and economy are at stake.

China’s population dropped by 2.08 million in 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. In 2022, China’s population declined by 850,000.

Experts said the accelerated decline is due to the record-low birth rate in the country, along with a surge in COVID-19 deaths after lockdowns lifted at the end of 2022. But the downward trend is expected to continue for decades, leading some to suggest the economy will face serious struggles with its shrinking labor force.

“This is a country that is in the advanced stages of demographic collapse, and this is going to be the final decade that China can exist as a modern industrialized nation-state because it simply is not going to have the people to even try,” geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan said.

China’s birth rate has declined for decades, even before its one-child-per-family policy began in 1980. The government reversed the policy after 2015 to allow two and three children per family, but increasing the birth rate has proven a more difficult task than simply changing the policy. The birth rate continues to decline. In 2023, China said 9 million babies were born, more than half a million fewer than in 2022.

Meanwhile, China’s older population is proliferating, with estimates that people age 60 and older will surpass 400 million in 2035. Experts fear there soon won’t be enough working-age people to meet economic demands. China is dealing with a record number of unemployed youths, while debates on whether to move China-based supply chains to other markets are heating up.

While local governments have thought up incentives like tax deductions and longer maternity leave to encourage having children, a Beijing policy institute said many have not yet been implemented.

It may be too late to reverse course anytime soon. According to estimates by the United Nations, China’s population will shrink by 109 million by 2050, triple the decline previously estimated in 2019.

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[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

CHINA JUST ANNOUNCED ITS POPULATION FELL FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR. 

 

THE NATION’S LOW BIRTH RATE AND AGING WORKFORCE IS THREATENING THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD’S NUMBER TWO ECONOMY. 

 

ONCE THE WORLD’S MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY, CHINA’S ALSO NUMBER TWO IN THAT CATEGORY NOW. INDIA TOOK OVER THE TOP SPOT IN 2023. 

 

THIS WEEK, THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS REPORTED THAT IN 2023, CHINA’S POPULATION DROPPED BY MORE THAN TWO MILLION. 

 

THAT’S MORE THAN DOUBLE 2022’S POPULATION DECLINE OF 850,000. 

 

EXPERTS SAY THE ACCELERATED DECLINE IS DUE TO THE RECORD-LOW BIRTH RATE IN THE COUNTRY, PLUS A SURGE IN COVID DEATHS WHEN LOCKDOWNS LIFTED AT THE END OF 2022.

 

BUT THIS DOWNWARD TREND IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FOR DECADES. AND SOME EXPERTS SUGGEST THE ECONOMY WILL FACE SERIOUS STRUGGLES WITH THIS SHRINKING LABOR FORCE.

 

[PETER ZEIHAN]

 

“THIS IS A COUNTRY THAT IS IN THE ADVANCED STAGES OF DEMOGRAPHIC COLLAPSE, AND THIS IS GOING TO BE THE FINAL DECADE THAT CHINA CAN EXIST AS A MODERN INDUSTRIALIZED NATION STATE BECAUSE IT SIMPLY IS NOT GOING TO HAVE THE PEOPLE TO EVEN TRY.”

 

[SIMONE DEL ROSARIO]

CHINA’S BIRTH RATE HAS BEEN DECLINING FOR DECADES, EVEN BEFORE ITS ONE-CHILD POLICY BEGAN IN 1980. THE HEAVY-HANDED BIRTH CONTROL PROVED HARD TO REVERSE, EVEN AFTER LIFTING THE ONE-CHILD LIMIT IN 2015. 

 

THE NATION’S BIRTH RATE CONTINUES TO PLUMMET WELL BELOW THE POPULATION REPLACEMENT LEVEL, DESPITE THE COUNTRY SAYING FAMILIES COULD HAVE TWO CHILDREN, THEN UPPING IT TO THREE.

 

CHINA SAYS NINE MILLION BABIES WERE BORN IN 2023, DOWN MORE THAN HALF A MILLION FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

 

MEANWHILE, CHINA’S OLDER POPULATION IS GROWING RAPIDLY. IT’S ESTIMATED PEOPLE IN CHINA 60 AND OLDER WILL SURPASS 400 MILLION IN 2035.

 

AS THEY AGE, THIS CENTURY THERE WILL BE MORE PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE WORKING AGE IN CHINA THAN IN IT, STRAINING THE SHRINKING LABOR FORCE.

 

ALREADY CHINA IS DEALING WITH A RECORD NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED YOUTHS. AND DEBATES ON WHETHER TO MOVE CHINA-BASED SUPPLY CHAINS TO OTHER MARKETS ARE HEATING UP.

 

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE THOUGHT UP INCENTIVES LIKE TAX DEDUCTIONS AND LONGER MATERNITY LEAVE TO ENCOURAGE FAMILIES TO HAVE MORE CHILDREN. BUT ACCORDING TO A BEIJING POLICY INSTITUTE, MANY HAVE NOT YET BEEN IMPLEMENTED. AND IT MAY BE TOO LATE TO TURN THINGS AROUND ANYTIME SOON.

 

THE U.N. NOW ESTIMATES CHINA’S POPULATION WILL SHRINK BY 109 MILLION BY 2050, MORE THAN TRIPLE THE DECLINE THEY PREVIOUSLY FORECAST IN 2019. 


WE GO IN DEPTH ON THIS PHENOMENON ON THE SAN WEBSITE. SEARCH “CHINA’S POPULATION PROBLEM” ON SAN.COM FOR MORE.