China, the world’s most populous country in its recent once-a-decade census, published on Tuesday, showed that the country’s population grew at its slowest rate in decades in the 10 years prior to 2020. The country’s births fell to their lowest in almost six decades amid the coronavirus pandemic last year. This continuous trend of falling population is being considered as a serious threat to the world’s second-largest economy.

The decline in the birth rate is fuelling pressure on the Chinese government to ramp up incentives to couples to have more children and reverse its one-child policy. The recent census released revealed that the population of mainland China increased 5.38 percent to 1.41 billion in comparison to an increase of 5.84 percent that raised the population of the country to 1.34 billion in the 2010 census. Apart from this, it was observed that double-digit percentage rises in all of China’s previous six official population surveys dating back to 1953.

These figures raised concerns in China about the prospect of a demographic crisis for the world’s most populous nation, with the falling birth rate and rapidly aging workforce as these aspects could curtail the country’s rapid economic growth.

With the numbers recorded in the recent census, China missed its 2016 target to increase its population to about 1.42 billion by 2020 for which the country even replaced its one-child policy with a two-child limit.

While the overall population of China slipped in 2020, there was a bright spot in the census data. The country witnessed an unexpected increase in the proportion of young people in the population, it was recorded that 17.95 percent of the population was 14 or younger in 2020, compared with 16.6 percent in 2010.