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China’s Shrinking Population: Economist Calls for “Urgent Response”

China’s declining birth rate and aging population have become a major concern for the country’s economic future, prompting calls for an “urgent response” from a leading economist.

Ma Jiantang, a former high-ranking official, highlighted the gravity of the situation in a recent speech. He pointed to statistics showing a significant drop in births, with 2023 numbers reaching only half of what they were in 2017. This, coupled with rising death rates, resulted in a population decline of over two million in 2023, following a decrease of nearly one million in 2022.

The shrinking workforce, which has contracted by 60 million in the past 12 years according to Mr. Ma, is seen as a major threat to China’s economic growth. He emphasized the need for a comprehensive response to address these “structural changes” in the population.

Mr. Ma proposed various policy changes to encourage childbirth, including promoting assisted reproductive technology, simplifying registration for children born out of wedlock, and expanding social safety nets through improved birth insurance, extended maternity leave, and increased childcare facilities.

These concerns echo sentiments expressed by President Xi Jinping himself, who has called for a “new culture of marriage and childbearing” to support national development. However, many young people are delaying marriage or choosing to remain single due to economic anxieties. Factors like slow economic growth, high youth unemployment, and low consumer confidence are cited as reasons for this trend.

China’s shrinking population poses a complex challenge with significant economic and social implications. The government’s response to these demographic changes will be closely watched in the coming years.

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