China’s ageing population, low birth rate to cause ‘unstoppable’ population decline, experts say
China’s population is set to peak at 1.44 billion people in 2029 — but it then faces a long period of “unstoppable” decline, government scholars have warned.
- China is grappling with demographic problems caused by its ageing population
- The country could be missing more than 200 million workers by mid-century
- The birth rate fell in 2017 despite the abolition of the one-child policy
The world’s most populous country must now draw up policies to try to cope with a declining labour force and a rapidly ageing population, according to a summary of the latest edition of the Green Book of Population and Labour published by the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
Growth in the working population has stagnated, the report warns, and the rising number of elderly people will have a far-reaching impact on social and economic development in the country, especially if fertility rates remain low.
“From a theoretical point of view, the long-term population decline, especially when it is accompanied by a continuously ageing population, is bound to cause very unfavourable social and economic consequences,” it said.
China’s population is expected to fall back to 1.36 billion by the middle of the century, which could mean a decline in the workforce of as many as 200 million people.
If fertility rates remain unchanged, the population could fall to 1.17 billion by 2065.
China abolished its controversial “one-child policy” aimed at curbing population growth in 2016, instead allowing couples to have two children.
However, the country’s birth rate still fell 3.5 per cent in 2017 and is expected to have fallen again last year.
China’s “dependency rate”, or the proportion of non-working people, including children and the elderly, in the total population, rose for the first time in more than 30 years in 2011, and is widely predicted to increase further for at least the next few decades.
The proportion of retirees is projected to rise until 2060, the CASS report said, and while the decision to relax “one-child” rules was designed to rebalance China’s age structure, in the short term it will also lead to a greater dependency rate.
According to previous forecasts, China’s elderly population is expected to reach 400 million by the end of 2035, up from around 240 million last year.