The results of China’s Seventh National Population Census have finally been released, triggering a wave of headlines and social media hot takes. There’s a lot of data to sift through, but here are six bits of info that made us sit up and take notice.
That’s the real headline stat here, with the word increased especially important. In the weeks running up to the official release of census data, there were reports that mainland China might see its first population decline in decades. The government pushed back against such speculation and now here’s the big rebuttal: it’s up from 1.339 billion in 2010 and still up on last year, after the country surpassed the 1.4 billion mark in 2019.
Yet these numbers come with a big “but”: state media outlets noted that “demographers said the country’s population growth has slowed and may start to decline as early as 2022,” as The Global Times put it.
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A lot’s been made of China’s gender imbalance in recent years, but even so this is a pretty stunning statistic. Liaoning and Jilin — both in the country’s northeast — are the two areas where women (just) outnumber men, out of a total of 34 administrative regions claimed by the PRC.
Otherwise, the male:female ratio in the country overall is 105.07, or in other words the population is 51.24% male and 48.76% female according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
That’s up from 665.57 million in 2010. In other words, the percentage of urban population increased by 14.21% in the past decade.
With the country’s gradually loosening-up of internal migration policies, China has seen steadily advancing urbanization. In 2020, 124.84 million people traveled between provinces, possibly looking for more job opportunities and better living conditions, up 69.73% from ten years ago.
Or at least, they did in 2017, the most recent year that the census shared data on this subject. That’s up from second children comprising 30% of all new babies in 2013.
Ning Jizhe, director of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, stated on Tuesday that the “second-child” birth rate has “apparently” increased. The young population aged 0-14 has also increased by 30.92 million, a 1.35% rise compared to the census data of 2010.
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However, this comes as China’s total fertility rate has reportedly fallen below the “warning line” and reached its lowest point, according to data released from the same National Bureau of Statistics in January 2020.
“So please don’t pressure people to get married or give birth to babies; it all looks about right,” reads the top upvoted comment under a related post on social media platform Weibo. “It means the ‘first-child’ birth rate has decreased apparently,” writes another user.
State media channel CCTV News posted this stat on Weibo this morning, and it soon became a hit on the site, accumulating 160 million views in just a few hours. The post also notes that the average years of schooling of the population aged 15 and above increased from 9.08 years in 2010 to 9.91 years in the most recent census, while the illiteracy rate dropped from 4.08% to 2.67%.
Chinese netizens are not ready to celebrate the news however. Comments below the post are full of calls for justice regarding the death of a 17-year-old boy who fell from a building at Chengdu No. 49 Middle School on May 9. According to the mother of the deceased, the school has refused to disclose surveillance footage or any other details regarding the case.
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Elsewhere, questions are also flying around regarding the value of this multitude of college degrees. “There are only a few college degree-holders who are actually qualified,” one lawyer commented. “The increasing college enrollment rate only generates pretty numbers, not well-educated students. Perhaps their true level is merely equivalent to junior high kids from the last century.”
That’s three years older than the average age of the country in 2010. It’s projected that the country’s population will reach 46 years old on average by 2050.
Reigniting fears of China’s aging population, the number of Chinese people aged 60 or over rose a whopping 5.44% to 18.7%.
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After around three decades of China’s one-child policy, the country introduced a two-child policy in the middle of the last decade, in an effort to spur population growth, with worries about the economic strain that will be put on state services with an increasingly aged population.
This policy seems to have had a small impact on the country’s birth rate however, with the number of people aged between 0-14 rising by 1.35% to 17.95%.
Cover photo: 东旭 王 on Unsplash
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