China’s birth rate plummeted by nearly 10% in 2022, with only 9.56 million births reported, marking the first population decline since 1961, a year marked by a severe famine in the country. This demographic shift is exacerbating China’s existing challenge of an ageing population, potentially posing a threat to the nation’s demographic landscape and economic growth.
Despite the government’s efforts to reverse this trend through various policies, the decline in childbirth rates continues. Since 2016, the number of childbirths has halved, largely due to factors such as the high costs associated with raising children. Urban, educated, and economically mobile women, in particular, are reluctant to embrace traditional patriarchal family norms that come with having more children.
While the recent closure of obstetrics units and maternity services has occurred, authorities have not explicitly connected these actions to the declining birth rates. Some hospitals, such as a healthcare centre in Guangxi province and the Second Hospital of Yinzhou in Ningbo, have cited reasons such as an increasing number of high-risk pregnancies as the basis for their decision to cease offering delivery and maternal services.
This situation highlights the complex challenges China faces in addressing its declining birth rates and the potential long-term implications for the country’s demographic structure and economic growth.