China's population growth in the decade to 2020 slumped to the least in official records dating back to the 1950s, fuelling pressure on Beijing to ramp up incentives to couples to have more children and avert an irreversible decline, APA reports citing Reuters.
With growth having slowed ever since a one-child policy was introduced in the late 1970s, the 2020 results of the country's once-a-decade census, published on Tuesday, showed the population of mainland China increased 5.38% to 1.41 billion.
That compared with an increase of 5.84% to 1.34 billion in the 2010 census, and double-digit percentage rises in all of China's previous six official population surveys dating back to 1953.
The number meant China narrowly missed a target it set in 2016 to boost its population to about 1.42 billion by 2020. In 2016, China replaced its one-child policy - initially imposed to halt a population explosion at the time - with a two-child limit.
In recent months, China's state media has been increasingly bleak on the outlook, saying the population may start to shrink in the next few years. The United Nations predicts the number of people living in mainland China will peak in 2030 before declining.
But in late April, the Financial Times newspaper said the population actually fell in 2020 from a year earlier, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.
The 2020 number was actually slightly higher than the 1.4005 billion in 2019 estimated in a smaller official survey released in February last year.
China has long worried about its population growth as it seeks to bolster its economic rise and boost prosperity.
One bright spot in the census data was an unexpected increase in the proportion of young people - 17.95% of the population was 14 or younger in 2020, compared with 16.6% in 2010.