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How one line predicts the decline of China

China’s huge, and high-quality labour force, which provides its greatest international economic advantage, is ageing rapidly.

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China’s socio-economic success story looks set to end, unless it takes active steps to restructure its economy.

Population scientists and economists have studied how the populations will evolve of three Asian countries; China, India and Vietnam, and how their future population trends compare to the past.

“China, having adopted the birth control policy at the end of 1960s, succeeded in progressing from the traditional stage (characterised by high birth rate, high death rate, and high natural growth rate) to the modern stage (characterised by low birth rate, low death rate, and low natural growth rate) of population transition within only three decades, achieving a spectacular miracle of demographic development,” say Yigang Wei of Beihang University, Beijing, China, and colleagues in the journal PLoS One.

However, that looks set to end, as China faces new problems.

Its population is getting old before it can become rich. It has an imbalanced newborn sex ratio. And its previous birth control policies are all driving it towards an ageing population.

By the year 2030, China’s elderly population will make up almost 20% of its population, with more people overall outside working age than forming part of the labour force. The country will witness the disappearance of its population dividend and get mired in a severe ageing problem.

The problem will be far more severe than that of India, currently viewed as a significant future economic competitor.

India’s population is predicted to remain relatively ‘young’, as the proportion of the population of working age continue to grow.

According to the study authors: “Rapid population growth once provided ample workforce for China’s economic development, but as the age structure of population changes and the first demographic dividend diminishes, the massive population is gradually becoming a huge burden.”

Source: Predicting population age structures of China, India, and Vietnam by 2030 based on compositional data. PLOS ONE APRIL 2019, Yigang Wei, Zhichao Wang, Huiwen Wang, Yan Li, Zhenyu Jiang.