China’s number of registered births in 2020 fell by almost a third from the number of births registered in the previous year. This is a recent sign that easing the country’s strict family planning policies is not triggering a baby boom.
After decades of “one-child policy”, Beijing changed rules in 2016 to allow families to have two children as fears about China’s rapidly aging population and workforce decline increased.
Figures from the Ministry of Public Safety, released on Monday, showed there were 10.04 million registered births in 2020, which is 15 percent less than the number of registered births reported for 2019 early last year.
In the same month, the official statistics bureau reported a higher number of 14.65 million babies born in 2019 – more than 30 percent above the latest birth dates this week.
The data also suggest that birth rates have declined for the fourth year in a row.
The number of registered births is usually lower than the actual number of later announced births in China because not all parents register their children immediately.
According to the sexes, the gender balance was 52.7 percent boys and 47.3 percent girls.
A user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform noted that the birth rate was “lower than the number of people taking college entrance exams,” adding that aging would become more serious in the decades to come.
Another called the low rate “the greatest crisis the Chinese nation is facing”.
China introduced the one-child policy in the late 1970s to slow down rapid population growth before reversing it in 2016.
The change has not yet sparked a baby boom, however, as empowered Chinese women often delay or avoid childbirth and blame young couples for families’ rising costs and inadequate political support.
“If all of society regards carrying children as pain, then there is a problem in that society,” warned another Weibo.
The data also comes after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the global economy and many families are nervous about job security.
In November, China launched a once-a-decade census that paid particular attention to whether the population was declining due to the relaxation of family planning rules.
Demographic experts estimate that it could take 15 years for the two-child policy to have a noticeable impact on the population. The number of Chinese retirees is expected to reach 300 million by 2025.
Chinese state media quoted Civil Affairs Minister Li Jiheng in December as saying the country’s birth rate had “fallen dangerously” and was well below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman.