China’s population will begin to shrink in 2025, officials have said, as family sizes shrink and citizens age.
The world’s most populous country has faced a looming demographic crisis as it faces a rapidly aging workforce, a slowing economy and its weakest population growth in decades.
And although officials relaxed the nation’s strict “one-child policy” in 2016 and last year allowed couples to have three children, the birth rate has fallen to an all-time low.
“The growth rate of the total population has slowed significantly and will enter a stage of negative growth in the ’14th Five-Year Plan’ period,” the National Health Commission said on Monday, referring to the period between 2021 and 2025
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In January, officials said forecasts expected the population to enter zero growth “or even negative growth” in that five-year period.
“Currently, our country’s policy system for childbirth support is not perfect and there is a big gap with population development and people’s expectations,” the NHC said in its latest report. .
The total fertility rate has fallen below 1.3 in recent years, he added, while the country is expected to enter a severe aging stage by 2035, with more than 30 percent of the population over 60 years old.
Families are also shrinking, “weakening” pension and childcare roles, the health commission said, calling for improved support for raising children and housing, education and tax policies to help reduce the burdens of families.
Authorities in some parts of China are already introducing family-friendly policies to try to combat the slowing birthrate.
The eastern city of Hangzhou announced on Monday that families with three children could borrow 20 percent more than the maximum limit when they first apply for housing provident fund loans.
Other cities such as Nanchang and Changsha have also implemented supportive policies, according to state media.
Higher living costs and a cultural shift as people get used to smaller families have been cited as reasons for the fewer babies.
The “one-child policy” was introduced by Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping in 1980 to curb population growth and promote economic development, with some exceptions made for rural families and ethnic minorities.
The world’s population is expected to reach eight billion by November 2022, according to UN projections, with India poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2023.