China’s population is shrinking. The impact will be felt around the world

Hong Kong

With its population shrinking for the first time since the 1960s, China may be one step closer to losing its place as the most populous country to India.

The country’s population will shrink to 1.411 billion in 2022, about 850,000 people less than last year, China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced at its annual data conference on Tuesday.

The last time China’s population fell was in 1961, during a famine that killed tens of millions of people across the country.

This time, a number of factors are behind the decline: the far-reaching effects of the one-child policy that China introduced in the 1980s (but has since abandoned); the changing attitudes of Chinese youth towards marriage and family; entrenched gender inequality and the challenges of raising children in China’s expensive cities.

Experts warn that if the trend continues, it could also spell trouble for the rest of the world, as China, as the second-largest economy, will play a key role in driving global growth.

A shrinking population is likely to exacerbate China’s problems with an aging workforce and drag on growth, adding to China’s woes as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.

The population decline is partly due to China’s one-child policy, which allowed couples to have just one child for more than 35 years. Women caught opposing the policy often faced forced abortions, heavy fines, and eviction.

Alarmed by declining birth rates in recent years, the government lifted the rule. In 2015, it allowed couples to have two children, and in 2021 it increased to three. But the policy change and other government efforts, such as offering financial incentives, have had little effect — for a variety of reasons.

The high cost of living and education and rapidly rising real estate prices are key factors. Many people – especially in cities – face stagnant wages, fewer job opportunities and grueling working hours that make it difficult and expensive to raise one child, let alone three.

Also Read :  Iranian soccer player arrested amid World Cup scrutiny

These problems are exacerbated by entrenched gender roles that often place the bulk of housework and childcare on women who, more educated and financially independent than ever before, are increasingly unwilling to shoulder this unequal burden. Women also reported that they face discrimination at work due to marital or parental status, and employers often do not want to pay for maternity leave.

Some cities and provinces have introduced measures such as paternity leave and expanded child care services. But many activists and women say this is far from enough.

During the pandemic, disillusionment only grew as the younger generation, whose livelihoods and well-being were destroyed by China’s uncompromising no-Covid policies, grew disillusioned.

China's Three Child Policy ICU McLean pkg intl hnk vpx_00011727.png

Hear how parents in China are reacting to the new three-child policy

A declining population is likely to add to the demographic problems China already faces. The country’s population is already aging and the labor force is shrinking, putting enormous pressure on the younger generation.

China’s elderly now make up nearly a fifth of its population, officials said Tuesday. Some experts warn that the country could be on a similar path to Japan, which fell into three decades of economic stagnation in the early 1990s that coincided with an aging demographic.

“China’s economy is entering a critical transition phase and can no longer rely on an abundant, economically competitive workforce to drive industrialization and growth,” said Frederic Neumann, chief Asia economist at HSBC.

“As labor supply begins to shrink, productivity growth will need to pick up to keep up with the dizzying pace of economic expansion.”

China’s economy is already in trouble and will be in trouble in 2022. rose just 3%, one of the worst results in nearly half a century due to months of coronavirus lockdowns and a historic housing market slump.

A dwindling labor force could make recovery more difficult as China resumes travel and loosens many of the strict restrictions it has held for the past few years.

Also Read :  Banksy unveils Ukraine mural in town bombed by Russia

There are also social consequences. China’s social security system is likely to be strained by fewer workers to fund things like pensions and health care as demand for these services increases due to a shrinking population.

There will also be fewer people looking after grandparents, as many young people are already working to support their parents and two grandparents.

China's elderly population

China’s senior citizens risk being left behind

Given China’s role in driving the global economy, China’s challenges can have implications for the rest of the world.

The pandemic has shown how China’s domestic problems can affect the flow of trade and investment as its blockade and border controls disrupt supply chains.

A slowing Chinese economy would not only hold back global growth, but could threaten China’s ambitions to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy.

“China’s limited ability to respond to this demographic shift will likely result in slower growth performance over the next twenty to thirty years and affect its ability to compete on the global stage with the United States,” the US Center for Strategic and International Studies says. in an article published on his website last August.

This year, China looks set to lose its place as the most populous nation to India, whose population and economy are booming.

“India is the biggest winner,” tweeted Yi Fuxian, who studies Chinese demography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But while Yi said India’s economy could one day overtake the US, it still has some way to go. India is the world’s fifth-largest economy, overtaking the United Kingdom last year, and some experts have expressed concern that the country is not creating enough jobs to keep up with its growing workforce.

Still, some researchers say the news from China may have a silver lining.

Also Read :  Only 25% of Russians back Ukraine war, poll says

“For both climate change and the environment, lower population is a boon, not a curse,” in a tweet Mary Gallagher, Director of the International Institute at the University of Michigan.

NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus said population decline should not be seen as a “scary thing” but instead pointed to “exponentially accelerating global warming and biodiversity loss”.

Chinese officials have stepped up efforts to encourage larger families, including through a multi-agency plan announced last year to boost maternity leave and offer families tax breaks and other benefits.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping promised in October to “improve the population development strategy” and reduce economic pressure on families.

“[We will] create a policy framework that increases the birth rate and lowers the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, child rearing and education,” Xi said. “In response to the aging population, we will implement a proactive national strategy, develop aged care programs and services, and provide better services for lonely elderly people.

Some places even offer cash incentives to encourage more births. One village in the southern province of Guangdong in 2021. announced that it will pay permanent residents up to $510 a month with babies under the age of 2 1/2, which could add up to more than $15,000 per child. Elsewhere, property subsidies were offered to couples with multiple children.

But these efforts have yet to come to fruition, with many experts and residents arguing that much broader national reforms are needed. After Tuesday’s news broke, a hashtag went viral on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo: “To encourage births, you must first address the concerns of young people.”

“Our wages are so low and the rent is so high and the financial pressure is so great. My future husband will work overtime until 3am. morning every day until the end of the year,” one Weibo user wrote. “My survival and health are already problems, not to mention having children.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button