The number of newborns in China last year was the lowest since the rule of Mao Zedong, Bloomberg reports, demonstrating that Beijing’s decision to lift the one-child policy has had little effect.
In 2018, 15.23 million Chinese babies were born, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, marking a decline of 2 million from the previous year.
This is the lowest level since 1961, when China was recovering from the government’s disastrous ‘Great Leap Forward’ campaign to boost industrial capacity and accelerate rural collectivisation, which led to widespread famine.
The threat of an aging population comes at a time when China is facing a prolonged slowdown in its economic growth rate. One Chinese research institution has even forecast that the population could begin to contract as early as 2027 if the current birth rate persists.
“China should not only fully relax the family planning policy, but also introduce policies to encourage births,” said demographer He Yafu. “Long-term low fertility rates will bring a series of negative effects on the economy and society, leading to the increasingly serious aging of the population, a decreasing labor force and a higher dependency ratio.”