With a well-paid job in one of China’s wealthiest cities, Chen Xiaoyu decided it was time to get married this year. But starting a family is not on the agenda.

"If possible, I would want to get sterilized,” said Chen, 29, who works at a hospital office in Shanghai. "The financial pressure is unimaginable. I just couldn’t afford the cost of raising a child on top of housing loans.”

China’s once-in-a-decade census released on Tuesday shows that amid the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the number of births nationwide fell to the lowest level since 1961, when the country was struggling following a nationwide famine that killed tens of millions of people.