We spend more and more time looking at smaller and smaller things. As a result, the great changes of the world are invisible to us today. We use all sorts of methods to predict and prophesize about the future but often the future is contained in the demographics of ages in nations.
One of the great changes of the world in this century will be the shifting demographics of China towards an aging population.
The animated map above from YouTube shows the demographic shift in Chinese population over 150 years, from 1950 to 2100. The most noticeable shift can be seen in the changing shape of the male (light blue) and female (darker blue) horizontal bars. At the beginning of the animated chart, the Chinese population demographic resembles a bottom-heavy pyramid shape. At the end of the animation in the year 2100, the shape has changed from a pyramid to one that is top heavy. Almost an inversion of the pyramid shape in 1950.
This shifting shape of Chinese demographics will be operating quietly in the background of world events. It will influence Chinese consumption and production and this will in turn influence many other nations of the world.
From One-Child to Two-Child Policy
The grand shift was started by China’s one-child policy that represented China’s demographics for three decades. The Chinese government strictly enforced the one-child policy since 1979 with hefty fines for any breach of rules. According to the government, the policy reduced 400 million births over the years.
However, the one-child policy pushed Chinese demographics towards an aging population. To combat this, China did away with the one child policy for a two-child policy in 2016. One result of the two-child policy was sex-selective abortions due to a deep-rooted cultural preference for boys. As a result, China’s gender balance tilted, with a sex ratio of 111 males to 100 females in the population aging from 0 to 4 years old in 2020.
Visual Capitalist notes that this gender imbalance created what is referred to as “the missing women of China.” It is expected to worsen over time. According to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects, China is projected to have around 244 million fewer women than men in 2050.
Generally, fertility rates drop as economies develop. However, China’s fertility rate is now lower than that of the U.S. (1.64 in 2020) and on par with countries like Japan and Italy, both of which are facing aging populations. Consequently, fewer newborns are entering the population, while many in the workforce approach retirement. And, most workers retire by age 60 in China.
The Three Child Policy
According to the 2020 national census, Chinese mothers gave birth to 12 million children in 2020, the lowest number of births since 1949. In response to these results, the government passed a new law allowing each couple to have up to three children.
Despite the change, the high cost of raising a child may deter couples from having a third child. It remains to be seen how the three-child policy helps combat China’s demographic crisis and which other policies the government chooses to deploy.
From 7.5% to 37.8%
The animated map above from YouTube is represented in the below chart. The stunning statistic of this projection is that 60+ population of China goes from 7.5% in 1980 to 37.5% in 2100. Today, in 2021, 60+ population makes up almost one-fifth of the Chinese population.
|Year||60+ Population||% of Total Population|
Will China Mandate Births?
As China’s workforce shrinks, its aging population threatens long-term economic growth. Fewer working people means lower overall consumption, a higher burden on elderly care, and slowing economic growth. As it becomes more obvious the one, two and three child “policies” are not working, it is not unreasonable to suspect the Chinese government will move from birth policies to birth directives and orders that couples produce a certain number of children. The high cost of raising a child could subsidized in some way by the government.
It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that children might be raised in certain facilities away from their parents to generate enough workers to support the economy. Will the government of the world’s largest nation implement birth mandates to Chinese couples to speed up economic growth? The government controls production of products in China. Will they seek to control production of that product that leads to increased economic growth? That product called new babies.