Is China facing a looming population crisis?
By Hu Chao, Meng Leilei
02:22

It may be another cold winter in northern China, but young people are making the most of their school holidays. Many of them are college students or fresh graduates. While marriage and having babies await most of them in the coming years, they remain divided on the subject.

"I'm not that into kids. My own happiness is what's most important," a college girl said. Another graduate boy noted, "I don't necessarily want kids. And I think raising them is a tiring job!"

Others held a different opinion.

One college boy said, "I will definitely have kids because as the only child of my parents, I'm responsible for the continuity of my family line." Another young working girl said, "I'm sure I will have kids sooner or later. It's important."

With winter school holiday in full swing, more young Chinese people are taking the opportunity to go out and have fun. /CGTN Photo

With winter school holiday in full swing, more young Chinese people are taking the opportunity to go out and have fun. /CGTN Photo

It seems that more of these "children of the one-child era" today have a different mindset from their parents.

Last year, China saw its lowest number of births since 1961. The nation's birth rate declined unexpectedly since peaking in 2016 when the one-child policy was abolished. The declining trend of new births has triggered widespread concern. Some fear it could lead to a population crisis.

A mother holds her newborn baby at a local hospital in Taiyuan, north China's Shanxi Province. /CGTN Photo

A mother holds her newborn baby at a local hospital in Taiyuan, north China's Shanxi Province. /CGTN Photo

Dr. Han Shujuan believes multiple reasons are behind the downward trend. She researches population trends at the Shanxi Academy of Social Sciences in Taiyuan City, north China's Shanxi Province.

"First, the number of women of child-bearing age in China has been shrinking. Secondly, the rising costs of child raising has discouraged people from having kids. And many more people are waiting to get married, when they're not as fertile," she said.

Dr. Han Shujuan has conducted many researches on Chinese population. /CGTN Photo

Dr. Han Shujuan has conducted many researches on Chinese population. /CGTN Photo

Dr. Han says the birth rate is very likely to keep dropping in the future similarly to many developed countries.

Many are saying China is losing its population dividend. But with a labor force of 900 million people, Han says quality outweighs quantity.

"Population dividends can also be achieved by raising quality. It's talent that determines how far a country can go. Enhancing human resource quality is far more important than how many people we have," said Dr. Han.

She also casts doubt on the notion of a population collapse in China.

"China's total population will still increase in the short term. The number of women of 'breeding age' has been declining but we still have nearly 100 million of them, a very large number."

China's one-child policy lasted for three decades. Dr. Han says the mindset that having one child is better still lingers in many families. But if the birth policy was further loosened and more favorable policies were made, the birth rate might rise in the future.