image(WSJ) A Chinese state-media report this week cited a sharp drop in the country’s fertility rate, offering a rare glimpse into China’s deepening demographic plight and highlighting the country’s increasing lack of transparency on data.

China’s total fertility rate—a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—fell to 1.09 last year, from 1.30 in 2020, according to a study by a unit of the National Health Commission cited this week by National Business Daily, a media outlet managed by the municipal government of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

At 1.09, China’s rate would be below the 1.26 of Japan, a country long known for its aging society—throwing one of Beijing’s long-term challenges into sharp relief even as the country struggles with an economic slowdown right now.