The latest data comes as the government is urging people to have more children, after decades of doing the opposite.
The birth rate in mainland China fell from 7.52 per 1,000 population to 7.52 in 2021, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday, prompting a downward trend in Beijing last year to allow couples to have three children.
China suspended its one-child policy in decades in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit, to cope with the rapidly aging population, but many couples do not want to have more children because of the high cost of living in the city.
It was the lowest birth rate since the statistical office began collecting data in 1949.
The natural growth rate of China’s population, excluding migration, was only 0.034 percent by 2021, the lowest since 1960.
“The demographic challenge is well known, but the pace of population aging is faster than expected,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.
“This suggests that China’s entire population will peak in 2021. It also indicates that China’s potential growth is slowing faster than expected,” Zhang said.
10.62 million were born in 2021, according to data, compared to 12 million in 2020.
The birth rate in 2020 was 8.52 births per 1,000 people.