BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The number of newborns in China plummeted 15% in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Public Security, with the onset of the novel coronavirus disrupting the economy and weighing on decisions to have a family.
China saw 10.035 million births last year, the ministry said on Monday, compared with 11.79 million in 2019. Of those born last year, 52.7% were boys and 47.3% girls.
In recent years, many couples have been reluctant to have children due to the rising cost of health care, education and housing. The abandoning of the decades-long one-child policy in 2016 has not provided much impetus to the country’s birth rate.
The economic uncertainties brought on by COVID-19 last year further weighed on decisions to have children, extending a long-term birth decline in the world’s most populous but fast-ageing nation.
About a fifth of Chinese citizens are aged 60 and above, or around 250 million people.
Rapid ageing will create policy headwinds for Chinese leaders as they promise to guarantee health care and pension payments.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics is expected to release official 2020 population data in late February.
Reporting by Ryan Woo and Engen Tham; Editing by Michael Perry and Himani Sarkar