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April 28, 2021 - China could soon reveal census data that shows its population is falling – its first decline since the Great Chinese Famine 60 years ago.
Chinese authorities are nearing the release of a controversial census completed at the end of 2020, that is believed to show China's first population slump since Mao Zedong’s disastrous "Great Leap Forward" industrialisation initiative (1958-1962), in which tens of millions of Chinese people starved to death.
The figure is considered very sensitive, however, and will not be released until multiple government departments have reached agreement on how to present the data.
China is the world’s most populous nation (1.4 billion residents) and as such its ruling Communist Party has for many years implemented policies designed to slow the growth of its population, including limiting the number of children couples could have to just one.
Despite relaxing the "one child" policy in 2015, to allow parents to have two children, in the hopes of encouraging a baby boom, it appears to have failed.
The long term effects of these policies mean the country will soon enter an era of negative population growth, which could have serious ramifications.
The declining population could create a burden on China’s economy and its labour force. A report issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences at the beginning of 2020, warned that a decline in the birth rate coupled with an increase in life expectancy would mean there would soon be too few workers to support an enormous and ageing population, estimating the contraction to begin in 2027 – although others believe it has already started.
Since that report was published, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected birth rates even further – births in China fell 15% from 2019, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security, with 10.04m births in 2020 compared with 11.79m a year earlier.
A decline in the working-age population could slow consumer spending and so have a negative impact on the economy in China and beyond.