China's declining birth rate has caused a significant drop in the number of enrolments for both kindergarten and primary school, leading to concerns about job losses for teachers.
In 2022, the number of kindergarten and preschool enrolments fell to 46.3 million, which is 1.7 million fewer than the 48 million recorded in 2021. Additionally, the number of kindergartens decreased by 5,000 across the country.
This drop in enrolments is a direct result of China's declining birth rate. Last year, Chinese mothers gave birth to 9.56 million babies, which is the lowest recorded figure in modern history. The country's birth rate also fell to a record low of 6.77 per 1,000 people. The overall population fell by 850,000 to 1.4118 billion, with deaths outnumbering births for the first time in six decades.
While concerns have been raised about job losses for kindergarten and primary school teachers due to the sharp decline in enrolments, other factors are also at play. Many parents are still struggling to afford public kindergartens due to scarcity and intense competition, which may explain why some kindergartens have experienced a drop in enrolments.
Despite the decline in enrolments for early education, middle and high schools have recorded an increase in enrolments, which puts pressure on educational resources and qualified teachers. As China continues to urbanize, the rural population is expected to fall faster, leading to a sharper decline in the number of children in the countryside.
To address the shortage of teacher resources, the government has set up teacher training programs and subsidized those who teach in difficult rural areas. This is in addition to efforts to promote the balance of subject structure and alleviate the shortage of teacher resources in music, PE, and art.
Foreign English teachers in China have also been affected by the declining birth rate. With fewer children enrolling in kindergarten and primary school, there is less demand for foreign English teachers. Many foreign English teachers in China work on a contract basis, which means that their employment depends on the demand for English language education. Some foreign English teachers have reported difficulties finding work in China due to the decline in enrolments.