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Births in China last year were the lowest on record

A baby has its first bath at the Congjiang County Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital in China's Guizhou's province.

A baby has its first bath at the Congjiang County Maternal and Child Health Care Hospital in China's Guizhou's province. Photo: Getty

The number of births in China tumbled 10 per cent last year to hit their lowest level on record – a drop that comes despite a slew of government efforts to support parents and amid increasing alarm the country is becoming demographically imbalanced.

China had just 9.56 million births in 2022, according to a report published by the National Health Commission. 

It was the lowest figure since records began in 1949.

The high costs of childcare and education, growing unemployment and job insecurity as well as gender discrimination have all helped to deter many young couples from having more than one child or even having children at all.

Last year, the country’s population also fell for the first time in six decades, dropping to 1.41 billion people.

That’s caused domestic demographers to lament that China will get old before it gets rich, slowing the economy as revenues drop and government debt increases due to soaring health and welfare costs.

Much of the demographic downturn is the result of China’s one-child policy imposed between 1980 and 2015, although the abandonment of that policy is having some effect.

Almost 40 per cent of Chinese newborns last year were the second child of a married couple, while 15 per cent were from families with three or more children, health authorities said.

To spur the country’s flagging birth rate, Beijing has been rolling out a raft of measures, such as efforts to increase childcare as well as financial incentives, and President Xi Jinping in May presided over a meeting to study the topic.

–AAP

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