context: While scrapping all birth restrictions has been advocated and considered in northeastern regions, the plummeting birth rate makes it clear the nation must adopt it sooner with more policies encouraging childbearing and rearing.

The results of the 7th national census were released by NBS (National Bureau of Statistics) on 11 May 2021. Key statistics include

  • total population is 1.41 billion, a 5.4 percent increase from the 2010 census
  • 12 million new births in 2020, 18 percent lower than 2019
  • total fertility rate is 1.3 average children per woman
  • population median age is 38.8
  • proportion of people by age bracket
    • between 0-14: increased by 1.3 percent to 18 percent
    • between 15-59: decreased by 6.8 percent to 63.4 percent
    • above 60: increased by 5.4 percent to 18.7 percent
  • 51 percent are men and 49 percent are women, sex ratio at birth is 111.3, 6.8 lower than 2010
  • 64 percent of people live in urban areas, 14 percent more than 2010
  • average number of university-educated people per 100,000 grew from 8,930 to 15,467
  • people not living in original residence cities/counties increased by 70 percent to 376 million

The official explanation for the one-month delay in releasing the results is the added preparation time for a substantial amount of new data, reports Caixin. The 2016 two-child policy has shown initial success as the proportion of children between 0-14 increased, however, the population will continue to age more rapidly, says Ning Jizhe 宁吉喆 NBS director. Moreover, because more new births are attributed to second births and the effects of the two-child policy will gradually wear off, the total fertility rate will continue to plummet below 1.3, a figure that is already extremely alarming, writes Liang Jianzhang 梁建章 Peking University professor. The reason is the declining number of women of childbearing age and the extremely high costs of housing, education and child-rearing, Liang says. Lifting all birth restrictions is not enough; strong policies to encourage and support childbearing and rearing are needed, Liang adds. Improving childbirth policies and enhancing inclusiveness are the next steps, says Ning.