Chinese Officials Alarmed Over Poor Fertility, And Threats To The Work Force

china baby girl

Chinese researchers say the one-child policy will take a serious, negative toll on China’s demographics in the next 40 years, reports Caixin Magazine. So politicians in  Guangdong have started pushing for reforms based on statistical information gathered from their region. The central government, however, looks un-yielding.

Via Caixin:

Guo Zhigang, a professor in Peking University’s Department of Sociology and researcher at the China Social Development Research centre, says that according to census data, China’s current fertility rate may be below 1.5 (that is, on average, a Chinese woman will bear 1.5 children in her lifetime). In accordance with internationally accepted standards, a fertility rate of 2.1 is known as replacement-level, under which births and deaths will gradually balance. In a situation where there is no international immigration or emigration, population growth will eventually cease. At present, China’s population departments have announced that China’s fertility rate is 1.8.

The sub-replacement fertility rate is just one part. The truly damaging part of this demographic change is how it will effect the labour force. A study by the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Sociology and Demography, shows that the number of elderly people that working-aged people have to support will peak by 2047. By then, 100 working-aged people will have to support around 40 people aged 65 and above, and 52 people aged 60 and above.

That’s three times the number of elderly people they must support currently.

Guangdong is a manufacturing centre, and local politicians say they need to keep growing the labour force in order to sustain economic growth as well. This is the first time this policy has been called into question by a politicians within the Communist Party structure and not just demographers/academics.

Bottom line: China’s getting rich, but by the time it’s really in the money, it may be too old to enjoy it. By 2050, estimates The Economist, it will have 2.2 working aged people for every person aged 65. The 2010 census shows the population grew even slower than expected, at a rate of 0.57%.

Chinese officials say that without the one-child policy, the population would have 400 million more people. Demographers aren’t convinced of that, but the family-planning enforcement bureaucracy is entrenched in the country’s political structure. That’s why Zhang Feng, the director of Guangdong’s Population and Family Planning Commission, has only requested moderate changes to the policy. Currently, couples where both parents are single children are allowed to have two children. Under Zhang’s proposal, couples where only one of the parents is single child will be allowed to have two children as well.

Most, however, recognise that even this small reform is unlikely.

Via The Economist:

“If the government has political reasons for not being able to change the policy, then there is nothing I can do,” says Zheng Zizhen a demographer at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences (GASS). “I can only say that from a scientific point of view, it is clear the policy needs to change.”

And it needs to change soon. Time is running out.