China has experienced a significant population decline for two consecutive years. On Wednesday, January 17, reports indicated a population of 1.409 billion at the end of 2023.
The latest decrease is twice as large as the decline observed the previous year, which marked the first population drop in six decades. Experts attribute this decline to a growing urban population and a historically low birth rate.
As of Wednesday, Beijing reported a birth rate of 6.39 per 1,000 people, consistent with rates in other developed East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. After implementing a controversial one-child policy in the 1980s to combat overpopulation, China has seen decreasing birth rates for many years.
In response to the declining population, the government ended the policy in 2015 and introduced various incentives to encourage family formation. In 2021, the restrictions were further relaxed, allowing couples to have up to three children.
However, these measures have had limited effectiveness. Young individuals in urban areas cite factors like the high cost of living and career considerations, especially following a three-year period impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has continuously stressed the importance of women adopting more traditional roles within the household. He recently urged government officials to promote a “marriage and childbearing culture” and to influence young people’s views on “love and marriage, fertility, and family.”
Yet, experts argue that these efforts do not adequately address a key issue affecting women’s views on parenting: deep-rooted gender inequality. The laws meant to protect women and their assets, and to ensure equal treatment, have been insufficient.
Rashelle Chen, a social media professional from Guangdong, said, “Women still don’t feel sure enough to have children in our country.” Ms. Chen, 33, has been married for five years and stated she doesn’t plan to have a child.
“The government’s birth policy seems to focus solely on producing babies, without protecting the rights and interests of the women giving birth,” she added.