China’s commercial hub Shanghai saw its population drop last year for the first time since 2017, according to official data, after 250,000 migrant workers departed because of the city’s Covid-19 lockdowns.
The data, published by Shanghai’s statistics bureau on Tuesday, showed the densely-packed hub had 24.76 million people last year, compared with 24.89 million people in 2021.
Shanghai’s figures came after Beijing also posted its first population drop since 2003.
Both cities are in line with national trends. China’s population fell last year for the first time in six decades, weighed down by rising living costs especially in big, sprawling urban hubs, weak economic growth, and changing attitudes towards raising a family.
Around 60% of people living in Shanghai said they wanted just one child or none at all, according to an official survey by the bureau. More than 28% of Shanghai residents polled said they did not plan to have an additional child because of the high childcare costs.
Shanghai’s birth rate dropped to 4.4 per 1,000 people from 4.7 a year earlier, while its death rate increased to 6.0 per 1,000 people from 5.6 due to a rapidly ageing population.
China last year recorded its lowest ever birth rate, of 6.77 per 1,000 people.
Around 18.7% of Shanghai’s population is older than 65, above the national average of 14.9%.
Many women in Shanghai were put off having children during a stringent Covid lockdown in April and May last year, which demographers said could have profoundly damaged their desire to have children.
Concerned by China’s shrinking population, political advisers to the government have made more than 20 recommendations to boost birth rates, though experts said the best they can do was to slow the population’s decline.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara