As world population hits 8 billion, China frets over too few babies

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Chinese software developer Tang Huajun loves playing with his two-year-old in their apartment on the outskirts of Beijing but he said he is unlikely to have another child.

Such decisions by countless people like Tang will determine the course not only of China’s population but that of the world, which the United Nations says reached 8 billion on Tuesday.

Tang, 39, said many of his married friends have only one child and, like him, they are not planning any more. Younger people aren’t even interested in getting married let alone having babies, he said.

The high cost of childcare is a major deterrent to having children in China, with many families in an increasingly mobile society unable to rely for help on grandparents who might live far away.

“Another reason is that many of us get married very late and its hard to get pregnant,” Tang said. “I think getting married late will definitely have an impact on births.”

China was for decades preoccupied with the prospect of runaway population growth and imposed a strict one-child policy from 1980 to 2015 to keep numbers in check.

But now the United Nations expects China’s population will start shrinking from next year, when India will likely become the world’s most populous country.