Multiple places across China record negative population growth rate, but ‘demographic dividend keeps driving economy’
Published: Feb 08, 2023 11:02 PM
A medical worker gets a newborn baby's commemorative footprint at a hospital in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Jan 22, 2023. Photo:Xinhua

A medical worker gets a newborn baby's commemorative footprint at a hospital in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Jan 22, 2023. Photo:Xinhua

Multiple places across China have recently announced their registered populations in 2022, with the number of newborns in some places falling by more than half and showing the negative natural growth rates of population. 

Jinhua city in East China's Zhejiang Province, for example, had a population of 4.96 million as of 2022. The number of newborns in the city in 2022 was 32,409, and the number of deaths was 34,315, leading to a negative natural growth rate of population of minus 0.38 per thousand. 

The newborns in the city dropped greatly from 43,024 in 2021 to 32,409 in 2022. 

In the Dazu district of Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, the population of registered households amounted to 1.06 million as of the end of 2022, with 3,456 newborns and 8,380 deaths, causing a negative natural growth rate of the population of minus 4.6 per thousand. 

Newborns of 3,456 in the district in 2022 dropped by more than half from 2021 and widened the extent of negative population growth. The natural growth rate of population in the district in 2021 was minus 1.2 per thousand. 

Statistics from Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest China's Yunnan Province show that the birth rates and natural growth rate of the registered population continued to decline in 2022. 

The population in the Chinese mainland fell for the first time in 61 years, a decline of 850,000 in 2022, data released in January by the National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) showed. 

There are two reasons for population declines in a region, He Yafu, an independent demographer, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "The first one is that the natural population growth rate is negative, that is, the birth rate is lower than the death rate. The second is that as the outflow of population is greater than the inflow, the migration of a population is negative."

It is not surprising that multiple places recorded negative natural population growth rates in 2022, as the national population growth was negative last year, He said, noting that policies to ease the cost of childcare are urgently needed to change the momentum. 

Shenzhen in South China's Guangdong Province, one of China's megacities with a population of 17.68 million, started in January to solicit public opinions on the city's policy of childcare subsidies. The subsidies for "third child" families can be accumulated up to 19,000 yuan ($2,789) over the course of three years. 

Besides Shenzhen, Jinan in East China's Shandong Province released a plan to improve the fertility policy and promote long-term and balanced population development. 

According to the plan, families with a second or third child born since January 1, 2023 can access a childcare subsidy of 600 yuan per month for each child up to the age of 3. 

However, the decline of population in the Chinese mainland does not mean that the populations of all provinces in the country also fell. The population development is uneven among different regions. 

On the whole, birth rates are lower in the eastern and northern regions than in the western and southern regions.

At least five provinces and regions such as Jiangxi, Guagnxi, Gansu, Qinghai and Chongqing recorded positive growth of permanent residents.

Meanwhile, Chinese demographers stressed that the negative growth for the mainland population does not mean that China's demographic dividend has come to an end.

The impact of negative population growth on socio-economic and environmental resources is essentially neutral, since China's overall population quality, especially in terms of education, is rapidly growing, so China can maintain a stable and sustainable economic development by improving the quality of labor and seizing the opportunity of technological revolution to increase productivity in spite of the overall decrease in labor resources, Peng Xizhe, director of the Fudan University Center for Population and Development Policy Studies, told the Global Times. 

Chinese experts pointed out that China's demographic dividend will continue to provide a strong driving force for the domestic economy and huge opportunities.