The total annual number of births in China fell in 2017, a sign that the government’s relaxation of the one-child policy is not likely to lead to a significant increase in the country’s birth rate, the Financial Times reports.
There were 17.2 million births in China last year, down from 17.9 million in 2016, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics released Thursday.
The government’s relaxation of the one-child policy in 2016 led to an extra 1.3 million births that year, but the new data supports the observations of many analysts that this increase was a one-off, rather than the start of a lasting trend.
“Some people took advantage of the lifting of the ban but most Chinese, even in rural areas, are concerned about how to pay for education . . . It’s very hard to encourage people to have more children,” said Martin Whyte, a professor at Harvard University.
The country’s low birth rate is a long-term threat to its economic development, as many analysts warn that China may “get old before it gets rich”. The country’s population aged 60 or over is predicted to more than double by 2050 to reach 440 million people.