China’s Population Decline 2024: Economic Shifts and India’s Rise

The National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) on Wednesday 17 January announced that the country’s population fell for the second year in a row in 2023 to reach 1,409.7 million (or 1.41 billion) This is a decline of 2.08 million compared to 2022. If projections made by the UN in 2022 are believed, the country is also likely to have lost its title as the “most populous country” to India during the course of the year. Although China has seen two consecutive years of population decline before, in 1960 and 1961, data suggests that unlike then, the decline this time around is due to larger demographic trends. The charts below explain these trends and what they mean for the country in detail.

Record-Low Birth Rates Drive Population Drop

The decline is driven by record-low birth rates. In 2023, new births fell 5.7% to just 9.02 million, while the birth rate reached 6.39 births per 1,000 people – the lowest level ever recorded. Experts suggest economic pressures and the pandemic’s impact have discouraged marriages and childbearing.

India Surpasses China as Most Populous Country

With China’s decreasing population, India has now overtaken it as the world’s most populous nation. This symbolic shift underlines China’s waning workforce and uncertain economic trajectory.

Comparisons Show Severity of China’s Decline

Compared to other countries, China’s population decline is more pronounced, stemming largely from its past one-child policy and resulting demographic hurdles. While each nation faces unique dynamics, China’s downturn remains stark.

India Also Shows Slowing Growth Patterns

Though India is still growing in population, its fertility rate has dropped to 2.0, nearing the replacement level. Like China, India grapples with challenges like an aging citizenry. This highlights how major economies confront similar demographic headwinds.

Key Differences Between the Two Giants

  • In 2023, China’s population dropped 0.2% while India’s continued increasing.
  • China’s fertility rate is extremely low at 1.2 versus India’s 2.0.
  • Both face rising economic risks from shifting age structures.

Varying Density Across China’s Landscape

China’s population density fluctuates dramatically, ranging from 110-150 people per square km. Density is far greater in eastern regions compared to the sparsely populated west. This imbalance results from factors like topography, climate and access to economic opportunities.

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Youth Unemployment Data Resumes Publication

After a five-month suspension, December data showed 14.9% youth unemployment, down from 21% previously. Joblessness among ages 25-29 reached 6.1%. The release highlights lingering labor market weakness.

Property Downturn and Consumption Remain Drags

The real estate crisis persists as a core challenge, with housing investment and sales declining for a second straight year. Meanwhile, retail sales growth slowed in December, underscoring muted consumption.

Stimulus and Reforms Needed for Stability

With ongoing property and consumer issues, analysts say China needs more government stimulus and reforms to maintain stability amid demographic shifts. Adapting policies to the new population landscape will be essential.

Outlook Hinges on Responsive Strategy

China’s falling population heralds an era of increased uncertainty. But visionary economic strategies that mobilize domestic innovation and entrepreneurship can convert the challenges into new opportunities. With pragmatic reforms and investments in its people, China can navigate its demographic transition.

In summary, China’s declining population underscores risks but also possibilities. If met with agile, forward-looking policies, the demographic decline can catalyze social and economic progress, driving sustainable prosperity.

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