BEIJING, Jan 17 (Reuters) - China's birth rate fell to its lowest last year since the founding of the People's Republic of China 70 years ago, posing a long-term challenge for its government.
The country's birth rate stood at 10.48 per thousand, the lowest since 1949, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Friday. The number of babies born in 2019 dropped by about 580,000 to 14.65 million.
Many young couples in China are reluctant to have children because they cannot afford to pay for health care and education alongside expensive housing. The abolishment of the One Child Policy in 2015 has not provided much of a tangible boost to the country's birth rate.
Meanwhile, divorce rates are hitting records. In the first three quarters of 2019, about 3.1 million couples filed for divorce, compared with 7.1 million couples getting married, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Rapid aging is also under way in the world's most populous nation, creating policy challenges for China's leaders as they promise to guarantee health care and pension payments amid a slowing economy.
China's overall population totalled 1.4 billion as of the end of 2019, the statistics bureau data showed, inching up from 1.39 billion a year earlier. (Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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