Jan 29, 2019 07:04 PM

Chart of the Day: China’s Shrinking Workforce

China’s labor force fell to 897.29 million workers in 2018, falling by 0.5% in the seventh straight year of decline, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The country’s shrinking population of workers has pushed up labor costs and added to the strain on an economy already struggling against headwinds.

From 2011 to 2018, China’s working-age population — people between the ages of 16 and 59 — shrank 2.8%, the NBS announced (link in Chinese) at a news conference Monday. As of the end of last year, the working-age population accounted for 64.3% of China’s roughly 1.4 billion people.

The drop in the birth rate from China’s one-child policy has led to a decline in the number of young people entering the workforce. The total number of births in China was 15.23 million last year, down by 2 million from the previous year. The decline marked the third straight annual drop since the one-child policy was replaced in 2015 with a two-child policy, which an expert said has been less successful than expected in increasing the birth rate.


A report released early this month by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences called the shrinking working-age population a “major variable for China’s economy.” Moreover, it warns China’s labor force will tumble by 200 million (link in Chinese) by 2050, citing a prediction by the United Nations in 2017.

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (

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