China on Wednesday published a revised statistical yearbook covering 2000 to 2010 that purportedly “found” 12 million children undercounted in previous reports.
This bit of timely good news arrived on the heels of some alarming population forecasts, including one analysis that found China’s population is already in net decline.
Apparently little explanation for the enormous revision – equivalent to discovering the entire population of Belgium – was provided by Chinese officials, but Bloomberg News speculated parents were still worried about running afoul of China’s infamous “One Child Policy,” so they avoided officially reporting many of their newborns until the children were old enough to require registration in schools.
“About 57% of the children later registered were girls, indicating the discrepancy could be partly linked to parents not reporting girls so they could continue to try for a boy,” Bloomberg postulated.
If the revised statistics are accurate, the “found” children could give China a little more time to work on reversing its demographic decline. The very same statistical yearbook publication found last year that China hit its lowest birth rate since the Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1949 – only 8.52 births per 1,000 people.
Marriages also hit a 17-year low in 2020, even after coronavirus lockdowns were lifted and ceremonies allowed to resume.
Senior obstetrics scientist Yi Fuxian of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told the UK Guardian on Tuesday that China is following a demographic spiral similar to Japan’s, but China will have an even harder time trying to offset the economic pressures that contribute to crashing birth rates.
“What the Chinese government is doing has already been done by the Japanese government, and the former is not as rich as the latter. Japan can provide free healthcare and education, but China can’t,” Yi observed.
“Most people just want one child, as was promoted by the government, and they have become used to having just one child. They don’t want a second or third despite the policy changes,” Yi explained, referring to China’s loosening of the One Child Policy in 2016 and 2019.