China’s population growth enters critical turning point as its total fertility rate falls below warning line: Official 

Amid demographers warning that the country’s population will soon start to decline, Chinese Minister of Civil Affairs Li Jiheng on Thursday said China’s total fertility rate has fallen below the warning line and the population growth has entered a critical turning point.

Facing a demographic crisis with a rapidly ageing population after implementing the decades-old “one-child” policy, China permitted to have a second child since 2016.

Now, the demographers have called on the Chinese government to immediately lift restrictions on having babies and be more tolerant toward babies born out of wedlock, and do more to lower the costs of raising and educating children.

Li Jiheng, in an article, said that under the influence of various factors, Chinese people are less willing to have children, the total fertility rate has fallen below the warning line, and the population development has entered a critical transition period, news agency PTI quoted a report by state-run Global Times.

On November 1, China started the world’s biggest exercise of population count to document demographic changes in the country. Under this exercise, about seven million workers began a door to door survey for the seventh census in the country to account for China’s population, which as per the last exercise conducted 10 years ago was stated to be 1.37 billion.

The figures were expected to reveal more data related to the population which is key for China’s strategic development as the second-largest economy after the US and demographic crisis faced by it.

He Yafu, an independent demographer, told the newspaper that the total fertility rate (the average number of children a woman gives birth to) should remain at about 2.1 for China’s population to stay stable, and a total fertility rate of 1.5 is a highly sensitive warning line, given historical and international experience.

“Once it slips below 1.5, a country falls into the trap of low fertility and is unlikely to recover,” He Yafu said, noting that China’s fertility rate has fallen below that.

He Yafu warned that China’s total population will soon start to decline, ending the trend of economic growth.

“Once a country’s population starts to contract, there is little chance of reversing the trend,” He Yafu told the daily.

The birth rate on the Chinese mainland dropped to 10.48 per 1,000 people last year, the lowest in seven decades, and the number of births was down 580,000 compared with the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said during his annual press conference that China’s population above 60 years increased to 420 million and that of children over six years to 100 million putting heavy pressure on nursing services and daycare centres.

Recent studies have found that China’s population is ageing at a rate and scale that is historically unprecedented. The Communist nation is expected to lose 400 million working-age persons this century, and the number is already falling, Merrick Carey CEO of the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia said in a policy paper.

(With PTI inputs)

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