China's People Problem: From Too Many to a 'Decline That Sees No End'

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The results of a once-a-decade census present China and its president, Xi Jinping, with a stark choice: Unwind party controls on family planning and immigration, or stick with the policies and risk declining economic growth.

On Tuesday, China’s government said births dropped for a fourth consecutive year in 2020 and the overall rate of population growth slowed to a near halt, with the total number of people edging up to 1.41 billion. Nearly 20% of citizens are age 60 or over.

Wang Feng, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, expects China’s population to begin to fall within five years. “It’s going to be a decline that sees no end,” he said.

Stagnating population growth, even for crowded China, translates into fewer younger people to generate economic power as rising numbers of elderly represent a net drain on finances. It is the reverse of the demographic profile that underpinned China’s economic miracle, essentially a surge in productivity driven by an endless supply of cheap labor.

Demographers for years have called on China’s political leaders to eliminate controls on family size, including a two-baby limit, and push back retirement ages that can be as low as 50 for women and 60 for men. Welcoming young foreign immigrants could create a pool of labor and fresh growth impetus. But China has resisted immigration, and controls over people’s individual lives are hallmarks of Communist Party rule. It was a monumental climb down for the party in 2015 when it eased the one-child policy set by then-leader Deng Xiaoping more than three decades earlier and widely regarded as outdated.

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Source:" WSJ "

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