China's birth rate fell to its lowest level last year since the Communist Party took power, exacerbating concerns that population challenges will slow the economy's growth.

Despite abolishing its one-child policy, the country posted 10.48 births per 1,000 people last year, the lowest margin since 1949, according to official statistics. Some 580,000 fewer babies were born in 2019 than in 2018.

China faces a demographic tsunami - a shrinking labour force, squeezed at both ends by an ageing population and waning births, a trajectory that will impact growth at a time when the economy is suffering. Yesterday, it posted annual GDP growth of 6.1 per cent, the lowest in three decades.

Children in costume wait to perform at Beijing Capital International Airport. China's population crept past 1.4 billion in 2019 for the first time, as an ageing population raises concerns. Photo / AP
Children in costume wait to perform at Beijing Capital International Airport. China's population crept past 1.4 billion in 2019 for the first time, as an ageing population raises concerns. Photo / AP

The country's working-age population is expected to fall roughly 23 per cent by 2050, according to official data.

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Chinese authorities abolished the "one-child" policy in 2015, allowing couples to have two children. The edict, imposed in the late-Seventies, was aimed at combating fears about whether the economy could support a rapidly growing population.

Many experts hailed the policy's end as too little, too late. Now, even though couples can have more children, many wait, if they have them at all, due to the high cost of living.

Divorce rates are also climbing - last year, about three million couples filed for divorce - while many women choose to stay single.

The trade war with the US has also led to China posting its weakest levels of growth in nearly 30 years.

Figures yesterday showed the Chinese economy has slowed, with 6.1 per cent GDP growth, from 6.6 per cent in 2018. Though still strong by global standards, and within the government's target range, it was the weakest expansion since 1990.

This year is crucial for the ruling Communist Party to fulfil its goal of doubling GDP and incomes in the decade to 2020, and turning China into a "moderately prosperous" nation.