China’s population grew last year, the statistics bureau said yesterday in an apparent bid to quash reports that it had fallen, but authorities stopped short of saying from which year numbers had grown.
On Tuesday, the Financial Times newspaper said China was set to report that its population fell below 1.4bn last year from 2019, in the first decrease in five decades, citing people familiar with the matter.
The National Bureau of Statistics has delayed publishing the results of last year’s once-in-a-decade census, with no explanation apart from saying more preparatory work was needed.
It had been due to announce the results in early April.
“According to our understanding, in 2020, our country’s population continued to grow,” the bureau said in a one-sentence statement, adding that detailed figures would be disclosed when the census results were published.
Births in China have continued to fall despite a two-child policy that replaced a decades-old one-child limit scrapped in 2016 in hopes of boosting the number of babies.
Last year, births plunged 15% to 10.035mn from 2019, the ministry of public security has said. The 2010 census showed the mainland population was 1.34bn.
By 2019, this had increased to 1.4005bn, the statistics bureau said in February last year.
Yesterday the bureau did not say if the 2020 growth was being measured from 2019 or from 2010, which means the population could have still risen from the last decade but fallen from a year earlier.
“The census is very accurate, but the reason for the delay in publishing it may be that some of the speculation is correct,” said Liu Kaiming, a labour expert in the southern city of Shenzhen.
“The number of newborns released by the ministry of public security is close to falling below 10mn. Therefore, the population of 2020 may be less than 1.4bn.”
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