According to China's National Health Commission, COVID-19 is a factor in the nation's declining marriage and birth rates, which have accelerated recently as a result of the high expenditures on schooling and child care.
According to the report, many women are still delaying their plans to get married or have kids, even though rapid social and economic transformation has brought about "profound changes". Young people moving to urban areas, spending more time in school, and having demanding jobs have all contributed, it also said.
Based on demographers, China's firm "zero-COVID" policy, which swiftly eradicated any breakouts by enforcing severe regulations on people's lives, may have had a profoundly negative impact on women's desire to have children in the long run. "The coronavirus has also had a clear impact on the marriage and childbirth arrangements of some people," the commission said.
Demographers predict that the number of births in China will drop to record lows this year, dropping from 10.6 million babies in 2018 to less than 10 million this year, or 11.5% fewer births than in 2020.
One of the lowest fertility rates globally and below the 2.1 rate the OECD considers necessary for a stable population, China's fertility rate in 2021 was 1.16. China, which implemented a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015, has acknowledged that its population is in danger of declining, posing a challenge to the country's ability to support and care for its elderly.
"The demographic challenge is well known but the speed of population aging is clearly faster than expected," Zhiwei Zhang, the chief economist at Pinpoint Asset management, said.
"This suggests China's total population may have reached its peak in 2021. It also indicates China's potential growth is likely slowing faster than expected," Zhang continued.
Authorities at the national and provincial levels have implemented steps over the past year to address the issue, including tax rebates, extended maternity leaves, improved medical insurance, housing subsidies, and more funding for a third child.
China has been implementing policies to lessen the financial burden of having children in addition to allowing couples to have three children. Last year, for-profit after-school tuition, a significant business, was banned.
Demographer Huang Wenzheng of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing predicted that birth rates will initially oscillate about 10 million before falling further in the absence of any policy adjustments. "But policies will provide greater support for the birth rate in the longer run," Huang said.