Demographers attribute China’s rapidly declining birth rate to the country’s strict COVID-19 restrictions, with some cities reporting double-digit drops.
The Chinese government’s strict zero-COVID policy has been controversial, with some claiming the communist regime’s efforts to maintain a COVID-free status as an overly ambitious and costly goal.
Just this past month, 1 million residents in Wuhan were put into a three-day lockdown after four asymptomatic COVID-19 cases were detected.
During the April-May lockdown, frustrated Shanghai residents could be heard screaming out of their windows, unable to leave their homes to walk their dogs or get supplies.
Prominent Chinese demographer Yi Fuxian told Reuters, “China’s zero-COVID policy has led to a zero economy, zero marriages, zero fertility.”
He predicts COVID-19-related factors will result in 1 million fewer births in 2021 and 2022 combined, with rates in 2023 forecasted to be even worse.
The city of Jiaozhou in the Shandong province reported a 26 percent drop in the first six months, while the city of Hukou in the Jiangxi province saw a steep 42 percent decline.
In a statement published by state-run Qiushi magazine on Aug. 1, the country’s National Health Commission said, “China’s Total Fertility Rate (TSR) was lower than 1.3 in recent years,” showing a continued “decline” in “women’s willingness to have children.”
The statement reported women of childbearing age having 1.64 children on average in 2021, 1.73 in 2019 and 1.76 in 2017, once again emphasizing the downward trend in childbirths.
Some factors reported as “major barriers to fertility” included financial burdens and “unattended” concerns surrounding the challenges of balancing childrearing and careers.
In order for a generation to “exactly replace itself,” the TSR must be 2.1 children, which is what the United Nations deems to be “replacement-level fertility,” according to a report from 2007.
A TSR level of 5 children per female is considered high, and below 1.3 is considered very low.
In an interview with The Epoch Times on Aug. 3, U.S.-based China affairs commentator Wang He explained how this could potentially impact the world economy.
“China needs sufficient low-paid workers since it is the world’s factory,” said Wang. “The biggest problem is that there will be a shortage of cheap labor for manufacturing.”
With fewer workers, factories will have to implement higher salaries, which in turn would potentially increase manufacturing costs in China. Other impacts could include social security not having enough money to cover retiree benefits, schools closing due to low enrollment and businesses such as maternity hospitals, which are centered on children, could go out of business.
Companies such as Ausnutria Dairy, which makes baby formula; Aiyingshi, a diaper producer; and Goodbaby, which makes cribs and strollers, all cited China’s declining birth rate as the reason for their corporate earning losses in the first half of 2022.
Using a United Nations data tool, if China’s declining rate from the first half of 2022 continues on the same trajectory, its total population could potentially be halved by 2100.
The hashtag “we are the last generation” briefly went viral on Chinese social media during the shutdown earlier this year in April-May before it was censored.
Featured Image via South China Morning Post