The People’s Republic of China has recorded its lowest birth rate since its founding over 70 years ago, according to data published Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Last year saw 10.5 births per 1,000 people. Some 14.6 million babies were born in China in 2019, down from 15.2 million in 2018. At the same time, the country’s total population eclipsed 1.4 billion for the first time at the end of last year — though the national population growth rate of 0.33% was also a record low.
Low fertility rates and an aging population have worried demographers and officials alike because of the risk these factors pose to the country’s future. Hoping to boost birth rates, China abolished the one-child policy in 2016 and proposed longer maternity leave for couples considering a second child — but so far these and other measures have achieved limited success due to changing social mentalities and the rising cost of childrearing. Meanwhile, birth restrictions continue to hang over some families’ heads, as couples who have more than two children can face harsh punishments.