One chart shows why China just frantically reversed its longstanding one-child policy

China just announced it is abandoning its longstanding one-child policy, officially allowing all couples to have up to two children. The shift seems to come from a deepening realisation that China’s working-age population is not growing fast enough to support its ballooning population of seniors, as people are living longer and longer lives.

While American politicians frequently talk about a Social Security crisis rooted in the same fears, the median age of the US population is actually rising (relatively) slowly. As the chart below shows, the median age of the population in China has been rising sharply since even before 1980, when the one-child rule was implemented.

While China’s population has for decades been younger than the US population — in 1950, the median age was 24 in China and 30 in the US — that gap has narrowed over time. Today, the median age of the US population is 38; in China, it’s 37.

But by 2050, the United Nations projects, the median age in China will have climbed to 50, while the median age in the US will still hover around 42.

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