SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Several Chinese regions, including the capital Beijing, saw birthrates decline again in 2018, the official China Daily reported, after a 2016 move to relax family planning controls failed to encourage couples to have more children.
Citing figures from local authorities, the newspaper said Beijing’s birthrate fell to 8.24 per 1,000 people, compared to 9.06 in the previous year. And in Shanghai, the birthrate dropped to 7.2 per 1,000, down from 8.1 in 2017.
The birthrate in the northeast rustbelt province of Liaoning, which has experienced a net population decline in recent years after an exodus of younger residents, fell to 6.39 per 1,000, down from 6.49 in 2017.
Alarmed by the rapid rate of aging in its population, China relaxed its controversial “one-child policy” in 2016, allowing all couples to have two children instead of just one.
But the policy change failed to reverse what demographers say is a long-term trend of falling birthrates, brought about by growing levels of prosperity along with concerns about the high costs of raising children.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the number of births last year reached 15.23 million, down 2 million compared to 2017, and the second consecutive annual decline.
China’s fast-ageing population was one of the major preoccupations during the annual session of China’s parliament earlier this month, with delegates calling for radical new measures to reverse the decline in new births.
Think tanks expect China’s population to peak at 1.4 billion in 2029 and then begin an “unstoppable” decline that could reduce the workforce by as many as 200 million people by the middle of the century.
Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Shri Navaratnam