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Decline in China’s Population

  • Context (IE): Since 2016, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has been falling in China.
  • India overtook it as the most populous country in the world in 2023.
  • TFR is the number of children a woman, on average, is expected to bear in her lifetime.

Evolution of Birth Control Policy in China

China's declining population

  • For the First Chinese President, Mao Zedong, birth control was a concern but not of great importance.
  • Failure of the Great Leap Forward (1958-62) programme led to starvation and death of millions.
  • With the rolling back of the Great Leap Forward, the population bounced back.
  • The Great Leap Forward (1958-62) was a social and economic programme meant to increase production and improve the quality of life for all.
  • Five-Year Plans after the 1970s encouraged birth control and even coerced.
  • The One-child policy, introduced in 1980, restricted couples to having only one child.
  • The “Later, longer, and fewer” slogan encouraged delayed marriage, longer gaps in children and fewer children.
  • The One-child policy was questioned later not just over issues of privacy and the state’s overreach but also the need.

Reasons for the decline

  • China’s TFR (2020 Census) was 1.3 births per woman, way below the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • Replacement rate: Number of children per woman to replace in the present generation in the future.
  • “One Child policy” claims to have reduced the TFR from 2.75 (1979) to 1.3 (2020) in China.
  • In 2016, the “One Child Policy” officially ended, and couples were allowed to have up to two children, which was later increased to three children in 2021.
  • Women’s education and employment allow them to make choices about their reproductive health.
  • Dejection from family life and customs is also one of the reasons.
  • High pressures of modern society, with increasing competition for jobs, are also factors leading to delayed marriage and no child.
  • COVID-19 pandemic deaths have also caused a decrease in the population.

Impact of declining population on China

  • The Working-age population has now fallen to 61% of the total population.

    China's working age population

  • Greater investments in elderly care, including palliative care, are needed.
  • Pressure on the young population to support ‘dependents’ (Aged less than 15 or more than 59).
  • Vicious cycle of slowdown: An economic slowdown should mean young couples delay having children. The resulting decline in fertility rates eventually pushes the economy’s productivity rates lower.
  • Working-age population: Population between 15 to 59 years, seen as productive in an economy.
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