BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly 2019/07

China National Bureau of Statistics reports that the Chinese population reached 1.395 billion at the end of December. The population increased by a mere 0.4 % from 2017, or about 5.3 million people. The rate of population rise was the slowest since the famine years of the early 1960s.

Populations in urban areas increased by a total of 18 million people to 831 million. The rural population correspondingly decreased by 13 million. Some of the growth in urban areas, however, reflects extension of city limits. Areas once zoned rural are now classified as urban areas. The worsening employment situation in cities was reflected last year in the number of internal migrants (people who move from rural areas to urban areas for work). The number of internal migrant workers increased by just 1.8 million to 288 million. Growth in the number of internal migrants has slowed steadily since 2010.

The working-age population (16–59 years) has been shrinking for years, falling to 897 million last year (a decrease of 5 million from 2017). The number of persons over 60 years of age increased by 9 million to 249 million. 

Last year saw the birth of 15.2 million children, the lowest number of births since China began to abandon the one-child policy in 2013. Although China officially switched to a two-child policy in 2016, the policy relaxation has not been reflected in the birth rate as hoped. China’s birth rate last year was just 10.94 per 1,000 inhabitants, down from 12.43 births per 1,000 in 2017. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) recently estimated that China’s population will go into decline in 2027. Under the current estimate, the population will fall to 1.17 billion by 2065.

China’s rate of population growth is lowest among all of the world’s most populous nations. The World Bank expects the population of India to exceed the population of China as soon as 2022. The current share of China’s working-age population (using the World Bank definition of 15–64 years) to total population was the highest among all of the world’s most populous nations (over 71 %) last year. The World Bank expects this ratio to fall below 60 % by 2050, when the working-age population ratio in China will be even lower than in e.g. the US.