Wuhan has become the second city in China, after Shanghai, to register negative population growth, according to city officials.
The capital of Central China's Hubei Province had, for the first time in the past 55 years, minus population growth in 2004, according to statistics.
The city's natural population growth was minus 1.89 per thousand last year compared with 2.88, 2.16 and 2.15 per thousand respectively for the 2001-03 period.
One major factor was the high death rate, said Gao Huixiang, an official with the Wuhan Family Planning Working Committee. "Last year's death rate was high, 9.39 per thousand."
According to the Wuhan Statistics Yearbook, the city's death rate was 4.97, 4.92 and 5.01 per thousand from 2001 to 2003 respectively.
Meanwhile, the annual birth rate was relatively stable, standing at 7.85, 7.08, 7.16 and 7.5 per thousand from 2001 to 2004 respectively.
"Fewer newborn babies and more senior citizens indicate that the city has gradually turned into an ageing society," Gao said.
A rough indicator of an ageing society is when people aged 60 or above account for 10 per cent of the total population.
This year, Wuhan is to focus on striving for a reasonable balance in the proportion between the newborn baby boys and girls.
In Hubei, there were 128 newborn boys for every 100 newborn girls last year compared to the international norm of 106 to 100.
"We'll make more efforts in combating illegal and improper foetal gender checkup and non-medical termination," Gao said.
Wuhan is not alone in having an ageing society. Shanghai is believed to be the first city in China to encounter the ageing phenomenon.
In Beijing, people over 60 and 65 accounted for 12.54 and 8.4 per cent of the general population by 2000, an obvious indicator of an ageing society. So, too, Tianjin, which has been reporting a low population growth.
Zhang Kaidi, deputy director of the China National Scientific Research Centre on Ageing Issues, told China Daily that among the cities reporting low or negative population growth rates across China, Shanghai's figures are the most accurate and the city can be categorized as an ageing society.
The city first showed signs of minus population growth in 1993 after a national census.
"The use of different statistical methods may lead to the inaccuracies," Zhang said.
Most of the population surveys are done door-to-door, which excludes the floating population by and large, he said.
Zhang's view is shared by other demographers.
"In big cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the census is probably conducted only among local household registered population," said Qiao Xiaochun, a demographer with Beijing-based Renmin University of China.
Source: China Daily