By Laura Luo for New Economy Observer

3 min readMay 17, 2021
New Economy Observer — China’s population growth has been on a downward streak for the past decade and may soon peak

New Economy Observer — China’s population growth has been on a downward streak for the past decade and may soon peak. But this has allowed space for the world’s largest population to rebalance its gender disparity to a natural level.

China still has the largest population on the planet, accounting for 18% of the world’s total. This is according to the fresh results of the latest census announced this week. The 1.41 billion-strong population has seen a decreasing birthrate.

Over the past ten years, China added 72 million people, up 5.38%, bringing the total poulation to 1.41 billion by the end of 2020. The average annual growth rate was 0.53% during the past decade, down from a rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010.

The low growth rate means China’s population will soon peak, followed by a shrinking trend in the long run. Ning Jizhe, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, revealed that 12 million babies were born last year, a significant decrease from 18 million newborns in 2016.

The current population structure reflects some of China’s intense social problems. These include an unsupportive culture to young mothers, skyrocketing housing prices, extremely scarce educational resources and a highly competitive job market, to name a few.

China’s current population structure was largely shaped by the one-child policy introduced in 1979 to curb the exponential growth of the population that a nation in severe poverty, as China was at the time, would be unable to feed. In 2016, the government ended the one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children.

The one-child policy, combined with discrimination towards females in less developed regions in China, have contributed to the now-imbalanced gender proportion in the country. The latest census shows that there are 105.07 men for every 100 women. Currently, China nas 34.9 million more men than women, making the marriage market highly competitive.

The good news is that the proportion of male and females at birth has shown signs of returning to normal. In 2020, the gender proportion for newborn babies was 111.3, meaning for every 100 baby girls, there were 111.3 baby boys. That’s a drop by 6.8, bringing the gender proportion at birth closer to parity.

As for the concerns over a decreasing Chinese labour force and its impact on the global economy, there are still 880 million individuals of working age in China, about the combined size of the population in Europe and Russia.

There are currently 300 million women in the fertile age bracket, with more than 10 million babies expected each year for the foreseeable future. Experts say China is already in the low fertility trap, and won’t see a turnaround any time too soon, even though numerous social stimulus measures to boost childbearing are already in place.

Finally, something good has come out of a slowing population growth rate — the proportion of illiterate people in China has come down by a third to 2.67%, and the proportion of people who complete a high-school and university education has risen 12.8 percentage points.

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