Demographic Crisis

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Demographic Crisis in China

 

 

Underpopulation in China

 

As of 2011, China ranked 71st in the world for population density, where 1st is the highest population density.  Some countries that are more densely populated than China:  Germany (47th), the UK (44th), and Netherlands (19th).[i]

 

Before the One-Child Policy, fertility levels dropped by more than 50% from 5.8 children per woman in 1970 to 2.7 in 1979.  On the other hand, during the 1980s, when the One-Child Policy was then recently implemented, fertility levels hardly changed.[iii]

 

China’s current fertility level is 1.6 children per couple,[iv] which is 30 percent below the replacement rate.[v]

 

Rising consumption is no longer a concern, but is actually desired as a way to generate market demand and to propel further economic growth.[vi]

 

While China’s per capita arable land shrank by about 25% between 1984 and 2008, per capita production of main agricultural products actually increased as each unit of arable land produced more food.[vii]

 

Energy consumption and population growth are not related very closely.  From 2000 to 2008, China’s total energy consumption doubled, despite the population only expanding by 5%.[viii]

 

Affluence, not population, drives growth in consumption and energy usage.  Between 1990 and 2007, petroleum consumption in China increased by 189 percent, natural gas by 375 percent, and electricity by 424 percent. During the same period, population size grew by only 16 percent. CO2 emission since the mid 1990s increased by over 50 percent in one decade, while population growth during the same time period was only 8.5 percent.[ix]

 

The number of new students in Chinese elementary schools dropped from 25.3 million in 1995 to 16.7 million in 2008.[x]

 

Between 1990 and 2008, 60% of Chinese elementary schools were closed down.[xi]

 

Fertility Rate in China, 1960-2008[xii]

http://www.economist.com/sites/default/files/images/images-magazine/2010/34/as/201034asc118.gif

 

Rapidly Ageing Population in China

 

By 2050, China’s population will be declining by 20 million every five years, and one out of four people will be over the age of 65. China’s public pension system covers only 365 million people and is unfunded by 150 percent of GDP. As a result, according to writer Jonathan Last, China should be viewed as a declining superpower with a rapidly contracting economic base and an unstable political structure.[xiii]

 

China’s elderly population is 11% of the population.  By 2050, it will be 31% of the population.[xiv]

 

This means that by 2050 China will have only 2.2 people of working age for every one person over 65.  In comparison, Japan, the oldest country in the world now, has 2.6.[xv]

 

An estimated 150 million families have only one child, accounting for a third of all Chinese households.[xvi]

 

By comparison the U.S. has 78.8 million families total.[xvii]

 

The proportion of people aged 60-64 rose from 7.6% of the population in 1982 to 10.5% in 2000.  For those above 65, their proportion rose from 4.9% to 7.1% in the same time frame.[xviii]

 

Between 2005 and 2030, the number of people aged 65 and above will likely more than double in size, from about 100 million to 235 million or more.[xix]

 

By 2015, China will have 220 million people over 60 years of age, compared with about 180 million in 2012. Within 40 years, China will have nearly 500 million elderly people, or about one-third of its future population of nearly 1.5 billion, which will put a huge strain on its financial and human resources.[xx]

 

After 2025, the total population of China will begin to shrink.[xxi]

 

The share of its population aged 65 and over will rise to 14% in 2025, 20% in 2035, and more than 24% in 2050 (reaching a peak of more than 28% in 2064).[xxii]

 

By 2040, 40% of all Chinese females aged 60 and above will have only one child, and by 2050, this number will increase to 50%.[xxiii]

 

The annual suicide rate among those aged 70 to 74 in cities surged above 33 per 100,000 people between 2002 and 2008 compared to 13 per 100,000 people in the 1990s.[xxiv]

 

China’s Demographic Profile by Age and Gender in 1982, 2000 and 2030[xxv]

               

      
 

Ratio of Producers to Consumers in China, 1982-2050[xxvi]

 

Proportion of Elderly Population in Urban and Rural China, 2000-2050[xxvii]


 

Adult Population 15+  by Age Group: China, 1970-2030 (estimated and projected, thousands) [xxviii]

 

 
Percentage of Chinese Women with No Sons by Age 60[xxix]

 

Recent (2000) vs. Projected (2040) Population Structure of Beijing[xxx]

 

 

Proportion of single children in China, 2011-2030:
Adult Population, ages 25-49 years (%, projected)[xxxi]

Year

Urban

Rural

2011

24.31

2.73

2015

32.43

4.90

2020

42.50

7.92

2025

53.48

12.25

2030

58.45

16.36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Population Structure, 2025:
Japan (un-shaded) vs. Heilongjiang Province, China (shaded)[xxxii]

 

U.S. Demographic Profile by Age and Gender in 1950, 2000 and 2050. [xxxiii]

   

 

 

Labor Shortage in China

 

China’s labor pool is on the decline due to dwindling human resources.[xxxiv]

 

In early 2013, Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics announced that China’s “working age” population—the 15 to 59 segment—totaled 937.27 million in 2012.  That number represents a decline of 3.45 million from 2011.  Moreover, the workforce in 2012 comprised 69.2% of the population, 0.6% less than in 2011.

Thus, in 2012 for the first time China saw a drop in the population of people of working age.[xxxv]

 

As late as 2008, the U.N.’s figures, Beijing’s numbers with minor adjustments, showed China’s total population falling off only after 2030.  That date is out-of-date; now, senior Communist Party officials, like Liu Mingkang, are talking about 2020, which means the peak will undoubtedly occur before then.[xxxvi]

 

China’s Working-Age Population[xxxvii]

 

 

 

Dependency Ratio in China is Increasing[xxxviii]

 

 

The only part of the working age population that will increase in size between now and 2030 is the group aged 50 and over.[xxxix]

 

The number of young laborers aged 20 to 29 has already come down by 14% in the last 10 years, and is projected to shrink further, by an additional 17%, in the next two decades.[xl]

 

Due to low fertility in the 1990’s, China’s labor supply will begin to sharply decline in 2015.[xli]

 

Cai Fang, the Director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy

of Social Sciences (CASS), characterizes the decline in the working-age population as the “greatest threat to China’s economic prosperity”.[xlii]

 

One writer has noted that “China, which has had one of the best demographic profiles of any nation, will soon have one of the worst.  The economic effect of population decline will, in all probability, be severe, long-lasting, and evident soon.”[xliii]

 

According to Nicholas Eberstadt, “This dramatic shift in China‘s population profile has four major economic and social implications for the years immediately ahead. . . .

  • The first is the end of labor force growth. . . .
  • Second, there is the broader issue of rapid and pervasive population aging. . . . How China‘s coming tsunami of senior citizens is to be supported remains an unanswered question. As yet, China has no national public pension system in place, and only the most rudimentary of public provisions for rural health care. Meeting the needs of its rapidly growing elderly population, however, will undoubtedly place economic and social pressures on China that no country of a comparable income level has ever before had to face. . . .
  • Third, in the decades immediately ahead, China will see the emergence of a growing host of essentially unmarriageable young men. . . . How will China fare with a growing army of unmarriageable, underprivileged, and quite possibly deeply discontented young men in its midst? It is impossible to know for certain, but it is difficult to see how this could prove a plus for either economic performance or social cohesion. . . .
  • Finally, China faces the prospect of truly revolutionary changes in family structure, especially in its ultra-low fertility urban areas.”[xliv]

 

Male Crime Statistics in China

 

China’s crime rate has nearly doubled in the last 20 years.[i]

 

Incidents of social unrest have risen from about 40,000 in 2001 to over 90,000 in 2009.[ii]

 

It was found that sex ratios and crime rate were connected, with just a one percent increase in sex ratio leading to a five percent increase in crime rate.[iii]

 

The parts of China with the most male-biased sex ratios are experiencing a variety of maladies, all tied to the presence of too many young men.  These problems include gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, kidnapping, and trafficking of women, incidences of which are all rising steeply in China.[iv]

 

These incidents of social unrest are becoming larger, more violent, more likely to cross provincial borders, and more diverse in terms of participants and grievances.[v]

 

A study concluded that increased sex ratios are correlated with increased bride abduction, trafficking of women, rape and prostitution.[vi]

 

Unmarried men between the ages of 24 and 35 are also found to be three times more likely to murder than their married counterparts.[vii]

 

High male sex ratios can lead to more authoritarian forms of government in an effort to crack down on crime.[viii]

 

High male sex ratios also lead to a lower rate of female literacy and workforce participation.[ix]

 

Unmarried men in China are almost always poor and uneducated, 74% don’t have a high school diploma.  This number increases in the rural areas of China to 97%, with 40% or rural bachelors also being illiterate.[x]

 

Lack of a female counterpart has led to a downward cycle for rural men. As one researcher described it, this is a “poor à bare branch à poorer” cycle.  According to Nicholas Eberstadt, the enormous and growing inequality problem that already exists in China is furthered by the increasing frustration and anger by those who are left behind — those are disproportionately the unmarriageable.[xi]
 

The tensions associated with so many bachelors in China's big cities might tempt its future leaders to mobilize this excess manpower and go pick a fight, or invade another country. China is already co-opting poor unmarried young men into the People's Liberation Army and the paramilitary People's Armed Police.[xii]

 

According to German scholar Gunnar Heinsohn, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a male “youth bulge.”  Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar male youth bulge.  During the Cold War, it was male youth-bulge countries—Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon—that saw the worst civil wars and revolutions.  Heinsohn has also linked the recent rise of Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to an Islamic male youth bulge.[xiii]

 

Political scientists Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer warn that China and India could be the next countries that, as a result of a surplus of men, will see increased violence and extremism.[xiv]

 

Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard University, argues that the surplus of men in China will lead to domestic instability or militaristic expansionism, or even imperialism.  This is all the more likely with the shrill nationalism already in Asia.[xv]

 

Previous societies with large numbers of unattached men have turned to a more authoritarian political system.[xvi]

 



[i] The Economist, The war on baby girls:  Gendercide:  Killed, aborted or neglected, at least 100m girls have disappeared—and the number is rising, March 4, 2010

[ii] Foreign Affairs, China's Dilemma: Social Change and Political Reform, George J. Gilboy and Eric Heginbotham, October 14, 2010

[iii] Lena Edlund et al., More Men, More Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy, Institute for the Study of Labor Discussion Paper Series (Bonn, Germany: 2007). Referenced in Mara Hvistendahl, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011, page 222.

[iv] Brooks, Rob, “China’s Biggest Problem? Too Many Men,” March 4, 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/14/opinion/china-challenges-one-child-brooks.

[v] Foreign Affairs, China's Dilemma: Social Change and Political Reform, George J. Gilboy and Eric Heginbotham, October 14, 2010

[vi] “Sex ratios and crime: evidence from China’s one-child policy”, by Lena Edlund, Hongbin Li, Junjian Yi and Junsen Zhang. Institute for the Study of Labour, Bonn. Discussion Paper 3214; The Economist, The war on baby girls:  Gendercide:  Killed, aborted or neglected, at least 100m girls have disappeared—and the number is rising, March 4, 2010

[vii] Robert Wright, The Moral Animal (New York: Vintage, 1994), 100.

[viii] “Bare Branches”, by Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer. MIT Press, 2004; The Economist, The war on baby girls:  Gendercide:  Killed, aborted or neglected, at least 100m girls have disappeared—and the number is rising, March 4, 2010

[ix] Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer, Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005), 203.

[x] Tucker, Joseph Da, et al. “Surplus men, sex work, and the spread of HIV in China.” AIDS 19.6 (2005): 539-547. http://journals.lww.com/aidsonline/fulltext/2005/04080/surplus_men,_sex_work,_and_the_spread_of_hiv_in.1.aspx

[xi]Fores, Betsi, “Roughly 40 to 50 Million Chinese Men Will be Left Unmarried,” February 13, 2013 http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/13/roughly-40-to-50-million-chinese-men-will-be-left-unmarried/

[xii] New York Times, Dudley Poston & Peter Morrison, China: Bachelor Bomb, September 14, 2005

[xiii] Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard in Newsweek.  Men Without Women: The ominous rise of Asia’s bachelor generation. March 6, 2011.  http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/06/men-without-women.html

[xiv] Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard in Newsweek.  Men Without Women: The ominous rise of Asia’s bachelor generation. March 6, 2011.  http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/06/men-without-women.html

[xv] Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard in Newsweek.  Men Without Women: The ominous rise of Asia’s bachelor generation. March 6, 2011.  http://www.newsweek.com/2011/03/06/men-without-women.html

[xvi] New York Times, Dudley Poston & Peter Morrison, China: Bachelor Bomb, September 14, 2005


[i] The World Bank, World DataBank: World Development Indicators, “Population Density (People Per Sq. Km of Land Area),” http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (accessed May 31, 2013)

[iii] Wang Feng, 2005, Can China Afford One Child Policy? http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs//api077.pdf

[iv] The World Bank, World DataBank: World Development Indicators, “Fertility Rate, Total (Births Per Woman),” http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN

[v] Ponnuru, Ramesh, “China’s Population Crash Could Upend U.S. Policy,” Bloomberg, April 30, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-30/china-s-population-crash-could-upend-u-s-policy.html

[vi]  Wang Feng, 2005, Can China Afford One Child Policy? http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs//api077.pdf    

[vii] Yang Xiaoping, Zuo Xuejin, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Population and Development Institute, 2010, Time to drop the one-child policy, http://new.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/3817

[viii] Yang Xiaoping, Zuo Xuejin, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Population and Development Institute, 2010, Time to drop the one-child policy, http://new.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/3817

[ix] Wang Feng, 2010, The Brookings Institution, China’s One Child Policy at 30, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0924_china_one_child_policy_wang.aspx

[x] Wang Feng, 2010, The Brookings Institution, China’s One Child Policy at 30, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0924_china_one_child_policy_wang.aspx

[xi] Wang Feng, 2010, The Brookings Institution, China’s One Child Policy at 30, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0924_china_one_child_policy_wang.aspx

[xii] The Economist, The war on baby girls:  Gendercide:  Killed, aborted or neglected, at least 100m girls have disappeared—and the number is rising, March 4, 2010; World Bank

[xiii] Thornton, Bruce, “The Coming Demographic Crisis,” Defining Ideas: A Hoover Institution Journal, April 25, 2013, http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/145631

[xiv] Center for Strategic and International Studies, China’s Long March to Retirement Reform, http://news.prudential.com/images/65/US%20GOTMK%20English%20Bro%2009%204_3.pdf

[xv] The Economist, “China’s Family Planning: Illegal Children will be Confiscated,” The Economist, June 21, 2011. http://www.economist.com/node/18988496

[xvi] Wang Feng, 2010, The Brookings Institution, China’s One Child Policy at 30, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0924_china_one_child_policy_wang.aspx

[xviii] Wang Feng and Andrew Mason, Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China, http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/EGMPopAge/EGMPopAge_5_FWang_text.pdf, 2005

[xix] Eberstadt, Nicholas, China’s Future and Its One-Child Policy, World Economic Forum, September 19, 2007, http://www.aei.org/docLib/20070919_070918_Eberstadt_g.pdf

[xx] Tatlow, Didi Kirsten, “I.H.T. Special Report: Global Trends: Rise in China’s Aging Poses Challenge to Beijing,” September 10, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/business/global/rise-in-chinas-aging-poses-challenge-to-beijing.html?pagewanted=all

[xxi] Wang Feng, 2005, Can China Afford One Child Policy? http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs//api077.pdf

[xxii] Wang Feng, 2005, Can China Afford One Child Policy? http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs//api077.pdf

[xxiii] Wang Feng, 2005, Can China Afford One Child Policy? http://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/stored/pdfs//api077.pdf

[xxv] Wang Feng and Andrew Mason, Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China, http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/EGMPopAge/EGMPopAge_5_FWang_text.pdf, 2005

[xxvi] Wang Feng and Andrew Mason, Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China, http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/EGMPopAge/EGMPopAge_5_FWang_text.pdf, 2005

[xxvii] Wang Feng and Andrew Mason, Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China, http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/EGMPopAge/EGMPopAge_5_FWang_text.pdf, 2005

[xxviii] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision, http://esa.un.org/unpp, Wednesday, May 13, 2009; 2:12:34 PM. Note: “medium variant” projections

[xxix] Calculations are illustrative, based upon simplifying assumptions: 1.  Reported parity distributions in 1990 census are accurate; 2.  SRB as in previous graphic; 3.  SRB not parity-specific; 4.  Childbearing completed by age 35 for the 2025 cohort of 60-year old women; 5) Posits the following distribution of childbearing for the 2025 cohort of 60-year-old women: no children, 3%; one child, 25%; two children, 65%; three or more children, 7%. Sources: Derived from  Feeney et. al. 1993, op cit; China National Bureau of Statistics 2002, op cit.; Referenced by Nicholas Eberstadt in 2009 Testimony to Congress.

[xxx] Baochang Gu, “Low Fertility in China: Trends, Policy, and Impact” (Presentation paper, Seminar on Fertility Transition in Asia: Opportunities and Challenges, United Nations, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, December 18-20, 2006), http://www.unescap.org/esid/psis/meetings/FertilityTransition/Gu-China%20_SFTA10.pdf (accessed April 17, 2008).

[xxxi] Guo Zhigang, Liu Jintang, Song Jian, “Birth policy and family structure in the future,” Chinese Journal of Population Science 2002(1): 1-11.

[xxxii] U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base, http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/idbagg (accessed July 31, 2008), And U.S. Census Bureau, International Programs Center, unpublished projections.

[xxxiii]  "The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States," Congressional Research Service. March 31, 2011. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32701.pdf

[xxxv] Figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, as cited in: Chang, Gordon G., “Is China Running Out of Workers?” Forbes, January 20, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2013/01/20/is-china-running-out-of-workers/

[xxxvi] Figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics, as cited in: Chang, Gordon G., “Is China Running Out of Workers?” Forbes, January 20, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2013/01/20/is-china-running-out-of-workers/

[xxxviii] Orlik, Tom, “Aging Chinese Face a Bleak Picture,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2013 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324682204578514670311367016.html

[xxxix] Eberstadt, Nicholas, China’s Future and Its One-Child Policy, World Economic Forum, September 19, 2007, http://www.aei.org/docLib/20070919_070918_Eberstadt_g.pdf

[xl]  Wang Feng, 2010, The Brookings Institution, China’s One Child Policy at 30, http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2010/0924_china_one_child_policy_wang.aspx

[xli] Wang Feng and Andrew Mason, Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China, http://www.un.org/esa/population/meetings/EGMPopAge/EGMPopAge_5_FWang_text.pdf, 2005

[xlii] U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Annual Report 2010, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_house...

[xliii] Chang, Gordon G., “Is China Running Out of Workers?” Forbes, January 20, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2013/01/20/is-china-running-out-of-workers/

[xliv] Eberstadt, Nicholas, “World Population Prospects and the Global Economic Outlook: The Shape of Things to Come,” The American Enterprise Institute, February 2011, pg. 14-17, http://www.aei.org/files/2011/02/28/EberstadtAEIDevelopmentPolicyWorkingPaperFINAL.pdf

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