FILE PHOTO: People play with children at a park in Jinhua, Zhejiang province, China November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s birth rate last year fell to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China 70 years ago, official data showed on Monday, as looser population controls fail to encourage couples to have more babies.
The birth rate stood at 10.94 per thousand, the lowest since 1949 and down from 12.43 per thousand in 2017, data from the statistics bureau showed. The number of babies born in 2018 fell by two million to 15.23 million.
The rate of natural increase in population, deducting the number of deaths, also slowed to the lowest since the aftermath of a disastrous famine in the early 1960s.
China allowed urban couples to have two children in 2016, replacing a one-child policy in place since 1979, with policymakers wary of falling birth rates and a rapidly growing aging population.
In January, a government-affiliated think tank warned that the population in the world’s second-biggest economy could start to shrink as soon as 2027.
The statistics bureau did not suggest a reason for the birth rate decline but economic growth last year fell to its lowest in nearly three decades.
Reporting by Stella Qiu, Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Nick Macfie