China said Tuesday that in 2022 its population declined for the first time in more than six decades, a change that may have implications for the world economy.

The population of mainland China fell by 850,000 last year, to 1.411 billion, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics.

The country’s birth rate was 6.77 per thousand, below the death rate of 7.37 per thousand. For comparison, in the United States in 2020 the birth rate was 10.7 per thousand and the death rate was 10 per thousand, according to data from the World Bank.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, has an aging population and has been struggling with low birth rates for several years now. The last time the population fell was in 1961, during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, according to CNN

The country repealed the one-child policy in 2015 in an attempt to improve birth rates, but it has continued to fall. 

“The Chinese economy is entering a critical transition phase, no longer able to rely on an abundant, cost-competitive labor force to drive industrialization and growth,” HSBC chief Asia economist Frederic Neumann said.

The announcement was part of a larger analysis of China’s economy over the past year, with the bureau highlighting positive trends.

“Under the strong leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Comrade (President) Xi Jinping as the core … the economic output reached a new level, the employment and prices were generally stable [and] people’s lives were continuously improved,” the bureau said. 

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