China's population declines for first time in 61 years

China's official figure shows its population declined last year for the first time in 61 years.

The National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that the total population on the mainland stood at an estimated 1.4118 billion as of the end of 2022. That's down 850,000 from the previous year.

The last time the country's population dropped was in 1960 and 1961, when the "Great Leap Forward" policy failed, and subsequent famines reportedly killed tens of millions of people.

The number of children born in 2022 fell by more than 1 million to an estimated 9.56 million. The birthrate dropped to 6.77 per 1,000 people, the lowest since the country's foundation in 1949.

Meanwhile, the number of people aged 65 or older was the largest since 1990, when comparable data became available.

The elderly population rose by 9 million from the previous year to 209 million, accounting for nearly 15 percent of the national total.

China abandoned its one-child policy in 2016 to deal with a labor shortage in the rapidly aging demographic. Since 2021, people have been allowed to have up to three children.

But the birthrate remains low due to the high cost of raising children and changes in views about marriage and parenthood.

Driven by its growing population, China has become the world's second largest economy. But observers say, if the population continues to decline, the country's economic growth may be affected.

Last year, the United Nations said India may overtake China in 2023 to become the world's most populous nation.

A previously released UN estimate puts India's population at 1.412 billion. The sources of the two figures are different, but China may no longer be the world's most populous country.