Hong Kong (CNN)China’s birthrate in 2019 hit its lowest level since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, according to official statistics released by Beijing Friday.
Chinese mothers gave birth to 14.65 million children last year, a birth rate of 10.48 babies per 1,000 people, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics.
China’s demographic issues could pose serious issues for the world’s second-largest economy when the current working-age population reaches retirement. Experts worry if the trend continues, or the population begins shrinking, China may get old before it gets rich.
Demographers have long pointed to China’s “one-child policy” as the culprit of the country’s current population problems. For decades, couples in China were limited to only having a single child, unless they were willing to break the law or had the money to work around the system.
Experts say the policy had dire effects on age demographics and sex ratio, as many poor, rural families who prized boys due to traditional cultural values went to extreme measures to ensure their child’s sex.
More than 250 million Chinese were over 60 years old last year, the statistics released Friday reveal. They make up more than 18% of the population.
The figure is forecast to rise to a third of the population by 2050 — or 480 million people. A study published by a leading state-sponsored Chinese think tank last year found that the country will face an “unstoppable” population decline over the coming decades, with fewer and fewer workers struggling to support an increasingly aging society.
The ruling Communist Party has attempted to combat demographic issues by encouraging families to have more babies, but many middle class families are wary to do so because of financial considerations.