Population Decline a Growing Economic Concern for China: Economist

In a recent speech, Ma Jiantang, one of China’s leading economists, expressed significant concern over the country’s rapidly declining population. Speaking in Shenzhen on May 19, Ma, the former party secretary at the Development Research Centre of the State Council, highlighted the urgent need for policy reforms to address this demographic crisis.

According to a report by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Ma pointed to a series of troubling statistics: China recorded just 9.02 million births in 2023, a drastic drop from the 17.23 million births in 2017. Coupled with the 11.1 million deaths in the same year, China’s population shrank by 2.08 million in 2023 alone, following a reduction of 850,000 in 2022. This marks a total population loss of approximately three million people over the past two years.

Ma emphasized that the shrinking workforce—down by 60 million over the last 12 years—has already had a substantial impact on the nation’s economy. “The structural changes to China’s population will deeply affect the country’s economy and require an urgent response,” he stated.

To counter these challenges, Ma proposed several policy measures aimed at boosting the birth rate. These include promoting assisted reproductive technologies, recognizing children born out of wedlock, enhancing birth insurance, extending maternity leave, and increasing the number of childcare centers.

The issue of a declining population and ageing society has been a growing concern among Chinese policymakers. President Xi Jinping highlighted the necessity of fostering a “new culture of marriage and childbearing” for the nation’s development. Despite these calls to action, many young Chinese are opting to remain single or delay marriage, citing poor job prospects, record-high youth unemployment, and persistently low consumer confidence as the economy slows.

As the world’s second-largest economy grapples with these demographic challenges, the calls for urgent policy reform from leading economists like Ma Jiantang underscore the critical need for action to secure China’s economic future.

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