Birth rates across nine Chinese provinces and autonomous regions decreased in 2021, the state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday.
“As of Sunday [April 3], 23 provinces and autonomous regions in China had released demographic data on birth rate for 2021. The data showed that nine provinces experienced a natural negative increase in population in 2021,” according to the Chinese state-run newspaper.
The nine provinces and regions included Hebei (which surrounds China’s national capital, Beijing), Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei, Shanxi, Chongqing, Inner Mongolia, Shanghai, and Heilongjiang.
“Among them, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi all registered negative natural population growth rates for the first time in recent decades,” the Global Times noted on April 6.
China contains 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions.
“In terms of birth rates, only two out of 23 provinces — Guizhou and Qinghai — had a birth rate of more than 1 percent [in 2021],” the Global Times observed on Wednesday.
China’s declining birth rate is a result of the nation’s decades-long child limits for married couples. The Chinese Communist Party enforced a strict one-child policy on nearly all families from about 1980 to 2016, implementing it through forced abortions and infanticides. The Party imposed the measure at the end of the 1970s in an effort to curb China’s then-explosive population growth. The policy was expanded to allow married couples to have up to two children in 2016 and again to three children in August 2021.
Beijing felt compelled to relax its child limits after realizing that the measure had caused unforeseen repercussions among China’s national populace. These negative impacts included a declining birth rate and warped demographics. China currently has significantly more men than women after couples overwhelmingly exhibited a male offspring preference during the one-child policy years. Additionally, China’s population is aging.
“China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level,” Reuters reported in May 2021.
The World Bank defines a total fertility rate as representing “the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with age-specific fertility rates of the specified year.”
China’s population fell in 2021 to its lowest level in 60 years, China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced in January.
“Last year, the overall population on the Chinese mainland increased by just 480,000, down from 2.04 million in 2020 and the lowest in six decades,” China Daily, which is owned by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party, recalled on March 4.
“He Dan, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said China’s population has entered ‘the zero-growth range’ — when the difference between births and deaths falls within 1 million,” the newspaper reported at the time.