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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

China. The population may decline for the first time in more than 60 years

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China may soon face the problem of depopulation. This year, the number of people in the Middle Kingdom may decline – for the first time since the Great Famine of 1959-1961 – according to forecasts by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. By 2100, there will be only 587 million Chinese left, which is more than two times less than today.

Currently, every sixth person in the world is Chinese. For 40 years, the population of the PRC has increased from 660 million to over 1.4 billion. There are many indications that the period of growth is over and the Chinese may begin to decline this year – for the first time since the Great Famine of 1959-1961.

Population of China

The downward trend has been going on for many years, but its pace surprised demographers. The turning point is coming a decade earlier than expected, said Xiujian Peng at the Australian University of Australia in an article published on The Conversation, pointing out that this was not stopped by the change from “one child policy” to “three children policy” or financial incentives to growing families.

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Demographer from the University of North Carolina, Yong Cai, quoted on the website of the journal “Science”, pointed out that young couples in China they do not want to enlarge families, “despite all the new initiatives and propaganda promoting childbirth” used by the country’s authorities. “The decline in China’s population will be rapid,” he assessed.

As late as 2019, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) predicted that the peak of the population would be in 2029 with 1.44 billion inhabitants. In the demographic forecast The United Nations from 2019, it was estimated that this would not happen until 2031-2032 with a population of 1.46 billion.

However, new forecasts by a team of researchers from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences say that from 2022 the population will decline by an average of 1.1%, and by 2100 there will be only 587 million Chinese – more than twice as small as now.


Economic challenges

Demographic aging can create serious economic challenges. While there are currently 20 seniors for every 100 Chinese working-age population, according to forecasts, by 2100, 100 working-age people will have to support 120 older people. The average decrease in the working age population by 1.73%. per year can significantly lower economic growth unless there is a sudden spike in productivity, Peng wrote.

– China’s economic miracle was largely based on its inexhaustible workforce, so the turning point in the population will inevitably also mark a turning point in the economy – said a gynecology and obstetrics specialist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in an interview with Radio Free Asia Yi Fuxian, author of Big Country With an Empty Nest.

However, some demographers believe the fears are exaggerated. “China is certainly aging, but its population is also becoming healthier, better educated and skilled, and adapting to technology faster,” said Stuart Gietel-Basten of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, quoted by Science.

According to Peng, higher labor costs will accelerate the process of relocating low-profit, labor-intensive industrial plants to other countries, such as VietnamBangladesh or India. For raw material exporting countries such as Australiait will mean looking for new buyers outside of China.

Instead, China will have to redirect more resources to health, medical services and seniors to respond to the needs of an aging population. According to estimates by researchers from the University of Victoria, if the pension system does not change, the cost of these benefits will increase from the current 4%. gross domestic product (GDP) up to 20% GDP in 2100.

“Despite projections that the current century will be ‘the Chinese century’, population projections suggest that (the center of) influence may shift elsewhere, including to neighboring India, which is expected to outstrip China in the next decade. “- concludes Peng.

Main photo source: EPA / MARK R. CRISTINO

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