China’s population has grown at its slowest pace in decades, reaching 1.41 billion, census results showed on Tuesday.
The growth of 5.4 percent since the last census in 2010 reflects fears of a looming demographic crisis amid an ageing society and slowing birthrates, with a sharp drop in the number of working-age citizens in the world’s second biggest economy.
The growth rate was the slowest since the 1960s, according to official data.
“The adjustment of China’s fertility policy has achieved positive results,” said Ning Jizhe, an official from the National Bureau of Statistics.
But he added that the “ageing of the population imposed continued pressure on the long-term balanced development of the population in the coming period.”
The number of people aged between 15 and 59 population dropped nearly seven percent, while those aged over 60 was up more than five percent.
China’s birthrate has been in steady decline since 2017, despite the relaxation of the decades-old “one-child policy”
This is partly due to falling marriage rates in recent years, couples struggling with the high cost of raising children in major cities, as well as women naturally delaying or avoiding childbirth due to their growing empowerment.
The average size of a family is now 2.62 people, the data showed, down from 3.10 people ten years ago.
“The family households continued to downsize because of increasing population mobility and the fact that young people after marriages lived separately from parents with improved housing conditions,” said Ning.
In a stark sign of the changing face of Chinese society, the urban population grew to 236.4 million — nearly 15 percent more than in the previous census.
More than 63 percent of people now living in urban areas.
However, nearly 500 million are part of what Beijing calls the “floating population” — migrant workers who live in places other than their official household registration.
China conducts a census every ten years to determine population growth, movement patterns and other trends. The sensitive data plays a major role in government policy planning.
The 2020 survey was completed in December with the help of over seven million volunteers who surveyed residents door-to-door.
For the first time, much of the census data was collected online this year, Ning said, saying the data was “rigorous” and “reliable”.
China recorded its slowest birthrate since 1949 for the year 2019, at 10.48 per 1,000 people.
And preliminary data published in February suggested the birthrate was also down significantly in 2020, although the number of actual births has not yet been announced.