One of the most populous cities on China’s east coast predicts that the number of local births will plummet by 27 per cent this year from 2019, further signalling that the country is facing a demographic crisis.
Local authorities in Ningbo, where the population of roughly 8.5 million is similar in size to that of New York, said in a recent report that the number of newborns in the city looks to be about 36,000 in 2020. That would mark a steep decline of 27 per cent from last year’s 49,464 births.
In the first half of this year, Ningbo reported 17,945 new births, down nearly 20 per cent from a year earlier, according to the half-year report published by the city’s health authorities in late August.
So far, Ningbo is the only Chinese city to have published its half-year population update. The Chinese government does not release nationwide forecasts for new births, and few Chinese cities make such public predictions.
But while the demographic estimate for Ningbo – the third most populous city in Zhejiang province, after the capital city of Hangzhou and Wenzhou – represents only a single city, it serves to fuel concerns over China’s declining birth rate.
The Health Commission of Ningbo did not give a specific reason for the deep fall in new births. However, the trend is clear in the world’s second-biggest economy that its population is quickly ageing while the labour force and fertility rate continue to decline.
While China has allowed every couple to have two children since 2016, when it ended the notorious one-child policy that was enforced for nearly four decades, the desire among citizens to get married and have babies has plunged.
And according to Ningbo authorities, China’s two-child policy is losing traction. Among the women who gave birth in Ningbo in the first half of the year, the proportion of those having their second child was 38.9 per cent, down 2.5 percentage points from a year earlier.
As a result, Ningbo authorities said they plan to improve public services and infrastructure to provide more daycare options, in hopes of encouraging people to have children.
Few local governments in China release their birth figures regularly. Chongqing municipality in southwestern China published monthly birth figures in 2019 in an effort to boost data transparency, but this resulted in a controversy over the quality of its data. Chongqing decided to halt the release of monthly data this year, after what it claimed was “unfair coverage from the Western media”.
Nationwide data shows that the number of newborns in China sank to a nearly six-decade low last year. Mothers in China gave birth to 14.65 million babies last year, down from 15.23 million in 2018, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics released on Friday.
Last year’s figure was the lowest since 1961.
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This article China’s birth rate problems underlined as Ningbo projects 27 per cent drop in newborns for 2020 first appeared on South China Morning Post