Policymakers are now under pressure to come up with new ways to encourage families to have more children to offset the country’s shrinking working-age population.
China’s labour force is expected to fall roughly 23 per cent by 2050, according to official data.
Beijing is concerned about long-term economic stagnation – a worry exacerbated now by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and at a time where the Chinese economy is growing at its slowest rate in decades.
A fast-ageing population will also pressure the government in other ways as officials seek to pay out pensions and provide health care to the elderly.
And so Chinese officials appear to be scrambling for a way to present the latest and closely-watched census results, and to prepare an appropriate response.
Even local officials have flagged the sensitivity of the data. Earlier this month, the deputy director of the statistics bureau in Anhui province stressed the need to “set the agenda to support how the data is interpreted, and to pay close attention to public reaction.”
“This will be the most accurate census in China in the past 30 years, and all parts of society have very high expectations,” Yang Ge, who studies population and labor economics at government research institute Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told state media.