BEIJING  —   China’s population growth has sunk to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic 70 years ago. With fewer couples opting for babies, the growth rate has slipped to 10.48 per 1,000 in 2019, lower than the US rate of 12.

The growth rate in India was 18 per 1,000 in 2017 though it may have slipped to some extent since then. China’s performance was slightly better than Japan which produces eight babies per 1,000 people. Despite the lowered growth rate, the total population in China crossed 1.4 billion. It was 1.39 billion last year. The number of babies born in 2019 slipped to 14.65, a drop of 580,000 over the earlier year.

This is the third consecutive year that population growth has slipped. China abandoned its one-child policy and has been encouraging couples to go for more children since 2016. But there are signs that the changed policy is not showing results.

Experts said China was facing a “demographic time bomb” with the number of people in the employable ages shrinking and the greying population  rising. The country’s working age population, between the years 16 and 59, declined by 890,000 from 2018 to 896.4 million. The number of people aged 60 or older grew by 4.39 million, making up 18.1% of the total population.