Financial Times April 19th,2022
Baby Bust: Pandemic Accelerates fall in China’s Birth Rate
The data from China may be following the same pattern as the rest of the world. In 2021 there were only 10.6m babies born. In October 2015, the Chinese Government relaxed the “one child” policy that it had introduced in 1979. Official data showed the number of new-borns in China briefly increased in 2016 and 2017 to around 17.8m (from 16.6m). The numbers then started a decline. There were an estimated 15.2m births in 2018 as it fell below the last year of the “one child” policy. It was only 14.6m 2019. The drop to 10.6m is therefore dramatic.
Does it represent an acceleration in the decline or is it too a temporary aberration?China is still fighting COVID. The birth rates by region show that Hubei has dropped the most. This is where COVID started. Is it a lagged effect in a country with a very high numbers of babies anyway? Will births take longer to recover because of the challenge of beating COVID? Is the strategy of extreme isolation impacting long term behaviour?
There is an alternative argument: the “historical footprint”. Wang Feng from the University of California suggests that one child families became the norm during those earlier years of the one child policy. COVID will reinforce it and so the effect will be long term. At the moment Chinese families are having to cope with a 4-2-1 model. A couple having to take care if four grandparents and one child because they have no brothers and sisters to help