One number best characterizes China’s demographics today: 160 million. How it changes for each of the 3 population groups has significant consequences.
1 It has more than 160 million internal migrants who, in the process of seeking better lives, have supplied abundant labor for the nation’s booming economy. However, this will fall drastically. The era of young, cheap labour is over.
2 More than 160 million Chinese are 60 years old or older. This will increase drastically, from 200 million in 2015 to over 300 million by 2030.
3 More than 160 million Chinese families have only one child, a product in part of the country’s three-decade-old policy limiting couples to one child each. The number keeps rising.
Economic growth will be affected. There will have to be reallocations of resources and priorities, as more funds flow to health care and pensions.
July 10, 2019
For World Population Day, a look at the countries with the biggest projected gains – and losses – by 2100
By 2100, China is expected to have 374 million fewer people than it does today; China’s projected decline in people, in fact, is more than the entire current population of the United States. India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2027.
For World Population Day, a look at the countries with the biggest projected gains – and losses – by 2100
China’s Population Destiny: The Looming Crisis
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Observers of China’s rise, when assessing the implications for global peace and prosperity, have largely focused their attention on the country’s economy, on its energy and resource needs, on the environmental consequences of its rapid expansion, and on the nation’s military buildup and strategic ambitions. Yet, underlying all these dazzling changes and monumental concerns is a driving force that has been seriously underappreciated: China’s changing demography.
With 1.33 billion people, China today remains the world’s most populous country. In a little more than a decade, however, it will for the first time in its long history give up this title, to India. But, even more important, China’s demographic landscape has in recent decades been thoroughly redrawn by unprecedented population changes. These changes will in the future drive the country’s economic and social dynamics, and will redefine its position in the global economy and the society of nations. Taken together, the changes portend a gathering crisis.
One number best characterizes China’s demographics today: 160 million. First, the country has more than 160 million internal migrants who, in the process of seeking better lives, have supplied abundant labor for the nation’s booming economy. Second, more than 160 million Chinese are 60 years old or older. Third, more than 160 million Chinese families have only one child, a product in part of the country’s three-decade-old policy limiting couples to one child each.
But the relative size of these three Chinese population groups of 160 million will soon change. As a result of the country’s low fertility rates since the early 1990s, China has already begun experiencing what will become a sustained decline in new entrants into its labor force and in the number of young migrants. The era of uninterrupted supplies of young, cheap Chinese labor is over. The size of the country’s population aged 60 and above, on the other hand, will increase dramatically, growing by 100 million in just 15 years (from 200 million in 2015 to over 300 million by 2030). The number of families with only one child, which is also on a continued rise, only underscores the challenge of supporting the growing numbers of elderly Chinese.
Why should one care about these demographic changes, and why should the overused label “crisis” be attached to such slow-moving developments? The aging of China’s population represents a crisis because its arrival is imminent and inevitable, because its ramifications are huge and long-lasting, and because its effects will be hard to reverse.
Political legitimacy in China over the past three decades has been built around fast economic growth, which in turn has relied on a cheap and willing young labor force. An aging labor force will compel changes in this economic model and may make political rule more difficult. An aging population will force national reallocations of resources and priorities, as more funds flow to health care and pensions.
Indeed, increased spending obligations created by the aging of the population will not only shift resources away from investment and production; they will also test the government’s ability to meet rising demands for benefits and services. In combination, a declining labor supply and increased public and private spending obligations will result in an economic growth model and a society that have not been seen in China before. Japan’s economic stagnation, closely related to the aging of its population, serves as a ready reference.
China’s demographic changes will also have far-reaching implications for the world economy, which has relied on China as a global factory for the past two decades and more. The changes may also affect international peace and security. An aging population is likely to lead to a more peaceful society. But at the same time, the projected 20 to 30 million Chinese men who will not be able to find wives, due to the country’s decades-long imbalanced sex ratio at birth, may constitute a large group of unhappy, dissatisfied people. Claims that these future bachelors will harbor criminal intentions and a propensity to form invading forces against China’s neighbors are unsubstantiated and overblown. Still, the fact that such a large number of Chinese men will not be able to marry is clearly a serious social concern, and the issue should not be neglected.
What also makes China’s demographic future a looming crisis is that, so far, the changes have largely taken place under the radar. This is so in part because China still has the world’s largest population and its population is still growing. It is also due in part to a continued tendency in China and elsewhere to believe that overpopulation is the root cause of all problems. Hence China’s hesitation, even reluctance, to phase out its one child policy—an important cause of the country’s demographic challenges.
Something little understood by the outside world, and indeed to the Chinese government and public, is that today’s demographic changes mark only the beginning of a crisis that will be increasingly difficult to mitigate if action is not taken soon.
A new era
China has entered a new demographic era. Its mortality rate has dropped to a level not very different from that of the developed countries. It fertility has dropped to a level lower than that of many developed countries, including the United States, Britain, and France—indeed, it is among the lowest in the world. And China has witnessed the largest flow of internal migrants in world history, resulting in an urbanization process that is of comparable historical proportions. These forces combined have created a population that is rapidly aging and rapidly urbanizing
China’s demographic future— is declining fertility. For nearly two decades, the average number of children a couple is expected to produce has been less than 2, recently falling as low as approximately 1.5. Such a number is below the replacement level (the level required for a population to maintain its size in the long run).
China’s low fertility, however, is a fact that has been established as real only relatively recently, in part because of problems associated with deterioration in the country’s birth registration and statistical data collection system, and in part because of the government’s reluctance to acknowledge declining fertility. The current period of fertility decline began quietly and remained unnoticed for almost a decade. When the first signs that fertility had dropped below the replacement level were reported in the early 1990s, they were quickly dismissed in the context of what was believed to be widespread underreporting of births.
By the turn of the twenty-first century, China’s demographic transition could no longer be doubted. Today the national fertility level is around 1.5 and possibly lower. In the country’s more developed regions, fertility has been even lower for more than a decade—barely above 1 child per couple, a level that rivals the lowest fertility rates in the world.
The ripple effects of fertility decline have begun to emerge everywhere in China these days. In 1995, primary schools nationwide enrolled 25.3 million new students. By 2008, that number had shrunk by one-third, to only 16.7 million. In 1990, China had over 750,000 primary schools. By 2008, due to the combined effects of fertility decline and educational reforms, the number of primary schools nationwide had fallen to about 300,000. In a country where getting into a university has always been a matter of intense competition and anxiety, the number of applicants to universities has begun to decline in the past couple of years.
The challenges posed by these demographic changes will be more daunting in China than in other countries that have experienced mortality and fertility declines. The reason for this does not lie in the size of China’s population, but in the speed with which the People’s Republic has completed its transition from high to low birth and death rates. China has achieved in 50 years—increasing life expectancy from the 40s to over 70—what it took many European countries a century to accomplish. In 2000, when the ratio of income levels in the United States and China was still about 10 to 1, female life expectancy in China was only about five years below that of the United States (75 versus 80). China, in other words, completed its mortality-decline transition while per capita income was still at a very low level.
And for the People’s Republic the challenge is all the more difficult because the country is undergoing an economic upheaval at the same time that its population is rapidly changing. While China continues to transform itself from an agrarian to an industrial and post-industrial society and from a planned to a market-based economy, it not only will need, for example, to provide health care and pensions for a rapidly growing elderly population that has been covered under government-sponsored programs. It also will need to figure out how to expand the scope of coverage to those who were not covered under the old system.
As a result of China’s very low fertility over the past two decades, the abundance of young, inexpensive labor is soon to be history. The number of workers aged 20 to 29 will stay about the same for the next few years, but a precipitous drop will begin in the middle of the coming decade. Over a 10-year period, between 2016 and 2026, the size of the population in this age range will be reduced by about one-quarter, to 150 million from 200 million. For Chinese aged 20 to 24, that decline will come sooner and will be more drastic: Over the next decade, their number will be reduced by nearly 50 percent, to 68 million from 125 million.
Such a drastic decline in the young labor force will usher in, for the first time in recent Chinese history, successive shrinking cohorts of labor force entrants. It will also have profound consequences for labor productivity, since the youngest workers are the most recently educated and the most innovative.
As the young population declines, domestic demand for consumption may weaken as well, since young people are also the most active consumers of everything from wedding banquets to new cars and housing units. And because China is a major player in the global economy, the impact of the country’s demographic changes will not be limited by its borders.
For the rest of the article:
Worse than Japan: how China’s looming demographic crisis will doom its economic dream
Yi Fuxian says a look at China’s ratio of working-age population to the elderly is ominously similar to Japan’s in the early 1990s, boding ill for the Chinese dream and the global economy as a whole
Published: 1:30am, 4 Jan, 2019
China first began to promote population control in 1973 and introduced its one-child policy in 1980. As a result, its total fertility rate, or births per woman, dropped from 4.54 in 1973 to 2.29 in 1989, then to 1.22 in 2000 and 1.05 (then the lowest in the world) in 2015.Japan’s low fertility rate triggered an economic crisis in the 1990s.
By 1992, Japan’s median age had increased to 38.5 (China hit that figure in 2016), while its old-age dependency ratio – the number of people aged 65-plus per 20- to 64-year-olds – increased to 18 per cent (China is predicted to hit that figure by 2023)
EDITORS’ PICK|Sep 3, 2020,12:51am EDT|35,760 views
China’s Population To Drop By Half, Immigration Helps U.S. Labor Force
China’s population is projected to drop by half by 2100, calling into question the country’s future economic growth in the face of a sharp decline in its labor force. In contrast, America’s population and labor force is likely to be sustained if the Trump administration’s policy of reducing U.S. immigration level is reversed.
The population of China is projected to decline from 1.4 billion in 2017 to 732 million by 2100, a drop of 48%, according to a new report published in the medical journal The Lancet and authored by University of Washington School of Medicine Professor Stein Emil Vollset and 23 coauthors. The number of people of working age in China is expected to plummet. The report forecasts a decline of 64% for China’s population aged 20–24 years. That is the prime age for a country’s military, the authors note.
“In raw numbers, China’s labor force has been declining over the last decade, but they have more than made up for numbers with higher levels of education,” said Mark Regets, a labor economist and senior fellow at the National Foundation for American Policy. “They cannot keep doing that as their population falls by half.”
Regets notes that population size is only one source of national power, but it makes a difference whether your population is slowly increasing or is declining. “A falling population has serious implications for the average age in society,” said Regets. “In percentage terms, the size of the labor force will fall even more than the size of the population.”