People walk along Nanjing Pedestrian Road. Picture credits ( Reuters )
China’s population is growing at its slowest pace since the 1960s, with falling births and a greying workforce presenting the Communist Party with one of its gravest social and economic challenges. Figures for a census conducted last year and released on Tuesday showed the country’s population at just over 1.4 billion people, about 72 million more than the 1.34 billion who were counted in the last census, in 2010.
Only 12 million babies were born in China last year, according to Ning Jizhe, the head of China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the fourth year in a row that births have fallen in the country. That makes it the lowest official number of births since 1961. The figures show China faces a crisis that could stunt growth in the world’s second-largest economy. China faces aging-related challenges but its households live on much lower incomes on average than US and elsewhere.
Beijing is now under greater pressure to abandon its family planning policies; overhaul an economic model that has relied on a huge population and a growing pool of workers; and plug yawning gaps in health care and pensions.
The new figure puts the average annual growth rate at 0.53% over the past decade, down from 0.57% from 2000 to 2010. This leaves it on course to be surpassed by India as the world’s most populous nation in coming years. They showed the population is aging rapidly. People over the age of 65 now account for 13.5% of the population, up from 8.9% in 2010.