China is set to report its first population decline since the famine that accompanied Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s, reported the Financial Times.
The current fall in population comes despite the relaxation of strict family planning policies, which was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the world’s most populous country.
The latest Chinese census, which was completed in December but has yet to be made public, is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4 billion, according to people familiar with the research, reported the FT. In 2019, China’s population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4 billion mark.
A fall in population could exact an extensive toll on Asia’s largest economy, affecting everything from consumption to care for the elderly. “The pace and scale of China’s demographic crisis are faster and bigger than we imagined,” said Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think-tank. “That could have a disastrous impact on the country.”