Beijing | China's population dropped by 2 million people in 2023 in the second straight annual drop as births fell and deaths jumped after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the government's statistics bureau said on Wednesday.
The number of deaths more than doubled to 690,000. Demographers were expecting a sharp rise in deaths because of COVID-19 outbreaks that started at the end of the previous year and continued through February of last year. The total population stood at 1.4 billion, the statistics bureau said.
The drop in births reflected a fall in the birth rate that is a long-running economic and societal challenge for China. The population is aging steadily, which could slow economic growth over time and challenge the nation's ability to provide for a larger elderly population with fewer workers.
The number of births fell for the seventh year, though by less than in previous years. About 9 million babies were born last year, half of the total in 2016.
China, which once sought to control population growth with its one-child policy, is now facing the opposite problem. The government has sought to encourage births since officially ending its one-child policy in 2016 but with little success.
People are marrying later and sometimes choosing not to have children. Even those that do often have only one child because of the high cost of educating children in the highly competitive academic environment.