Decline in China’s Population and its Impacts

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • Recent Population Trends in China
  • Factors Responsible for the China’s Falling Population
  • How Could a Falling Population Impact China?
  • Way Ahead for China

Why in News?

  • The year 2023 saw 11.1 million deaths and 9 million births in China, marking the second year in which the country’s total population has reduced to a recently released total figure of 1.4 billion.
  • In the same year, India overtook China as the most populous country in the world.

Recent Population Trends in China

  • Since 2016, the Total Fertility Rate or TFR (the number of children a woman, on average, is expected to bear in her lifetime) has been falling in China.
    • According to the 2020 Census, China’s TFR was 1.3 births per woman - marginally up from the 1.2 in the 2010 and 2000 censuses, but way below the replacement rate of 2.1.
  • The replacement rate is the number of children a woman is to have to replace the present generation in the future.
    • A couple having two children would mean maintaining the same level of population in the future as well.

Factors Responsible for the China’s Falling Population

  • China’s one-child policy:
    • Introduced in 1980, the One-child policy restricted couples to have only one child or face harsh penalties.
    • The Communist Party of China, in power since 1949, did so in a bid to accelerate economic growth.
    • In 2016, the One-child policy officially ended and couples were allowed to have up to 2 children, which was increased to 3 children in 2021. However, this has not helped achieve the goals of population growth.
  • Other factors:
    • Women’s education and employment allow them the agency to make choices about their reproductive health.
    • High pressures of modern society, with increasing competition for jobs, is also a factor. People are marrying later and sometimes choosing not to have children or to have only one child.
    • It is a vicious cycle - an economic slowdown should mean young couples delay having children and the resulting decline in fertility rates eventually pushes the economy’s productivity rates lower.

How Could a Falling Population Impact China?

  • The working-age population between 15 to 59 years, which is seen as being productive in an economy, has now fallen to 61% of the total population.
  • The proportion of those aged 60 and older has increased. Life expectancy has also increased for both men and women over time as a result of advanced healthcare systems.
  • In the short run, the trend will result in the need for greater investments in elderly care, including palliative care, and hiring more medical professionals and nursing staff.
  • In the longer run, it could lead to greater pressure on the young population to support the ‘dependants’ (those under the age of 15 and over the age of 59).
  • It also comes at a time when China’s overall economic growth is lower than expected and yet to go back to the highs it reached in the 2000s.

Way Ahead for China

  • It is necessary to strengthen guidance for young people’s views on marriage, parenthood and the family.
  • To promote policies that support parenthood and actively cope with the ageing of the population.
  • Telling good stories about family customs, guide women to play a unique role in promoting the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation and establishing good family customs, and create a new culture of family civilization.

Q1) How is the total fertility rate (TFR) defined?

The total fertility rate in a specific year is defined as the total number of children that would be born to each woman if she were to live to the end of her child-bearing years and give birth to children in alignment with the prevailing age-specific fertility rates.

Q2) What are the pros and cons of the rising population in India?

India’s youth bulge is a double-edged sword. To gain from it, India will need to create enough jobs for the millions who enter its workforce every year - a challenge at which it is currently failing. 


Source: China’s population fell for the second year in a row in 2023. But why?