China’s Looming Demographic Decline

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Births in China in 2021 were the lowest in its modern history, heralding a population decline that will have monumental consequences

  • For decades, China’s blockbuster economic growth has been coupled with an explosive population growth.
  • Since the inception of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the population soared from 540,000 million to 1.4 Billion, making it the world’s most populous country.
  • In 1980, China’s Communist Party implemented a “one-child policy” aimed at controlling population growth — using incentives and punishments to limit families to having only one child.
  • Millions were subject to harsh enforcement, including forced sterilizations and forced abortions. The policy was effective at accomplishing a fertility rate reduction — perhaps too effective.
  • In 2016, China ended the one-child policy, but China’s fertility rate — but for a brief increase — remained low.
  • This week, statistics were released that show the number of births in China fell for a fifth straight year. Births now barely outpace deaths. Analysts expect China’s population to begin shrinking.
  • This has occurred despite new state policies intended to encourage people to marry — with state officials even going so far as to organize matchmaking events — and to have children.
  • The decline of births is attributed to a number of factors — the high cost of living, social changes, a decrease in the number of women of childbearing age.
  • The consequences of the trend extend way beyond Chinese society. China’s demographic decline presents one of the greatest challenges to China’s long-term economic growth.
  • China is far from the only country facing demographic decline. But in a globalized world in which China’s economic importance is increasingly critical, ripple-effects will be felt far and wide.
The Guardian
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