Medical staff massaging babies at an infant care centre in Yongquan, in Chongqing municipality, in southwest China. Photo:AFP/STR

China’s birth rate dropped last year to its lowest level since the Communist country was founded in 1949, adding to concerns that an aging society and shrinking workforce will pile pressure on a slowing economy.

To avoid a demographic crisis, the government relaxed its one-child policy in 2016 to allow people to have two children, but the change has not resulted in more pregnancies.

In 2019, the birth rate stood at 10.48 per 1,000 people, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Friday.

The number of births has now fallen for three consecutive years. There were 14.65 million babies born in 2019, after 15.23 million in 2018 and 17.23 million in 2017.

Still, China’s population stood at 1.4 billion by the end of 2019, increasing by 4.67 million from the year before. China’s workforce continued to shrink last year.

The NBS said there were 896.4 million people aged between 16 and 59 – its population of working age – a drop from the 897.3 million in 2018.

This marks the eighth consecutive year of decline, and the workforce is expected to decline by as much as 23% by 2050.

Although China’s limit on family sizes could be removed, the rising cost of living has discouraged many of child-bearing age to have bigger families.

China’s economy grew by 6.1% in 2019, its slowest pace since 1990 as it was hit by weaker demand and a bruising trade war with the United States.

AFP

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