Beijing, Aug 2 (EFE).- China’s National Health Commission (NHC) has said that the country’s population, the largest in the world, will experience negative growth before 2025 and advocated policies to boost fertility, including the abolition of “restrictive measures,” state media has reported.
The information was published in a report by the NHC in the Qiushi Journal of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee and reported by the Global Times late Monday. It is the first time that the authorities have openly acknowledged that the growth rate of the population, which stands at 1.4 billion according to the 2021 census, will soon slow significantly.
China’s population has not declined since the early 1960s, when the famine triggered by the Great Leap Forward economic campaign caused the death of some 30 million people, according to estimated calculations.
Yang Wenzhuang, the head of population and family affairs at the NHC, said at the 2022 Annual Conference of China Population Association held in July that the country’s population would enter “negative growth” before 2025.
In its report, the NHC emphasizes the need to “review and abolish relevant restrictive measures, make the fertility policy more inclusive, improve comprehensive services for child-rearing, and introduce active support measures to effectively reduce the burden on the people and enhance the ability of families to develop,” the Global Times said.
Chinese law does not allow single women to freeze their eggs while allowing men to freeze their sperm, a discrimination that has sparked debate in recent years.
The birth rate, which has fallen to 1.3 percent in recent years, “has become the most important risk affecting the balanced development of China’s population,” the newspaper added.
Meanwhile, the country’s aging population has continued to increase. By 2035, people over 60 are expected to account for more than 30 percent of the total population, compared to the current 18 percent.
The NHC also highlights that the average size of the Chinese family has fallen by 0.48 persons since 2010 to stand at 2.62 in 2020.
Given this scenario, the agency considers it “vital” to improve people’s quality of life and modify economic development plans to deal with negative growth that Chinese demographers have said will be the dominant trend for a long time.
“In the past, we focused on population control, but now we should focus on raising the appropriate level of fertility, improving the quality of the population and the population structure, optimizing the population distribution, and promoting long-term and balanced population development,” the report said.
Among the measures that it suggests are housing, education, health, employment and taxation policies favoring families with children “to reduce the burden of childbearing, create a child-friendly social atmosphere, and stimulate families’ willingness to have children,” the Global Times said.
Six years after it abandoned its decades-long one-child policy, China in 2021 allowed couples to have up to three children.
However, the decision has not been welcomed with great enthusiasm partly due to the economic burden it entails and in part due to many women prioritizing their careers over having children.
Many Chinese provinces recorded their lowest-ever number of births in 2021, according to figures published this month.
Only the southeastern province of Guangzhou, China’s most populated, saw the birth of more than 1 million children during the year.
The population of other provinces such as Hunan and Jiangxi fell to the lowest level in almost 60 and 70 years respectively.
Global experts have predicted that neighboring India, with a population of some 1.38 billion currently, will overtake China in the near future to become the world’s most populous country. EFE