China: Where the Workers Went
How the One-Child Policy helped contribute to labor force shortages.
- China now has too few working-age people to sustain its economy and support it’s ageing population.
- The working-age population in China fell from 940.7 million in 2011 to 937.3 million in 2012.
- China’s change in policy is estimated to result only in 1-2 million more births per year.
1. China today faces a different demographic challenge from the one it faced in 1980 when the One-Child Policy took effect.
2. It now has too few working-age people to sustain its booming economy and to support its aging population.
3. The pivot point in China’s working-age population — those between the ages of 15 and 59 – where it began shrinking, not growing, occurred between 2011 and 2012.
4. The working-age population fell by 3.4 million, from 940.7 million in 2011 to 937.3 million in 2012, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The 2014 decline was even larger, at 3.7 million.
5. The shrinking of China’s working-age population will dampen the prospects of future economic growth.
6. It will also mean that a shrinking working-age population is working to support a growing retirement-age population.
7. In the absence of major shifts or policy changes, the UN projects that China’s over-60 population by 2050 will be similar to the share in Europe or in Japan – which today is the fastest-aging developed country in the world.
8. Chinese officials in late 2013 proposed a relaxation of the policy, allowing all couples who were themselves sole children to have two children.
9. Even so, demographers estimated that change would result only in 1-2 million more births per year — a relatively small overall impact.
10. Two years later, in October 2015, the Chinese government revised the entire policy to two children for all couples.
Sources: The Globalist Research Center, The Washington Post, UN Population Division