China’s once-a-decade census results were released Tuesday, signaling a critical turning point as the country’s population ages rapidly while the overall growth rate slows, bucking a five-decade trend. The data will serve as an important reference for adjustments to China’s population and economic policy planning, which could see the lifting of the national family planning policy, Chinese demographers said on Tuesday.
With birth fertility rates expected to drop in the following years, demographers predict that India with its much higher fertility rate will overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2023 or 2024, earlier than the last UN prediction in 2019 that this would happen by 2027.
Over the past decade, China’s population has continued to grow and China is still the most populous country in the world with steady improvement in population quality, and China’s population will remain above 1.4 billion for a certain period in the future, Ning Jizhe, head of National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), said at Tuesday’s media briefing. He said that China’s population will peak in the future, although it is not certain when that peak will come.
The population of the Chinese mainland grew to 1.412 billion in 2020, up from 1.4 billion at the end of 2019, according to the results of the seventh population census, which was released by the NBS on Tuesday.
The figures show that China’s population is growing more slowly than in the past. From 2010 to 2020, the Chinese mainland’s population grew by 5.38 percent, but from 2000 to 2010, the Chinese mainland’s population grew from 1.26 billion to 1.34 billion, an increase of 5.84 percent.
Although Ning did not give an exact time when China’s population is expected to peak, Lu Jiehua, professor of sociology at Peking University, believes this may happen around 2027, before it starts to decline. Some demographers believe the peak may come as soon as 2022.
Despite China’s population grows slower, its quality has significantly improved in the past decade. According to the census results, the average number of years of schooling for people aged 15 and over rose to 9.91 years from 9.08 years in 2010, and the gender ratio of the Chinese mainland’s population reached 105.07 males to 100 females, slightly down from 105.2 in 2010. China’s permanent urban population continues to increase, with the urban population on the mainland totaling 901.99 million, representing 63.89 percent of the total.
Meanwhile, the country’s ethnic population increased steadily, fully reflecting the comprehensive development and progress of all ethnic groups in China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the NBS said.
The ethnic minority population in the Chinese mainland reached 125 million in 2020, accounting for 8.89 percent of the total population, up 0.4 percentage points compared with 2010.
The population undercount rate in the seventh population census was 0.05 percent, lower than international standards, and the seventh census’ results were true and reliable, the NBS said.