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What is Causing China's Population to Decline?

The reasons behind China's declining population.

By Althea MarchPublished 4 months ago 7 min read
The causes of China's declining population.

China's population is declining for the first time in 60 years, and experts fear this could lead to a demographic disaster. This is due to the fact that China is aging in addition to shrinking. Additionally, the vast majority of Chinese couples do not plan to have more than one child. As a result, it is anticipated that by 2100, China will have lost about half of its population.

China's population drop can be attributed to tight family-planning laws put in place in the 1970s as well as a remarkable economic expansion supported by China's enormous labor force. Large portions of China have experienced fast urbanization, increased income levels, and improved education as a result of China's modernization. China now has one of the lowest birth rates in the world as a result of these policies and economic progress.

China is currently working to stop the population drop. Not only is it difficult to sustain an elderly population economically, but China's tremendous economic progress up until this point has been dependent on its populace. China may need to reevaluate its approach to developing its economy and providing for its residents as the country's population problems worsen over time.

The birth and mortality rates in China during the past 60 years are depicted, where its birth rates are high for the majority. But in 2022, China's population fell for the first time in six decades as a result of more deaths than births. Consider this to see why this is such a significant deal: Due in significant part to its massive population, China is the world's manufacturing superpower. Manufacturing accounts for around 30% of the nation's economic output.

China's population during the previous 60 years shows that its population of 1.4 billion people is still roughly as large as it has ever been, despite losing almost a million individuals in 2022. By the end of the century, however, that is expected to decrease by almost half. China's population has been declining over the years as a result of its expansion and policies. It is presently trying to change its course in order to maintain its population. Unfortunately, it might already be too late.

Under Mao, China went through one of its worst famines ever in the 1950s. Deaths totaled 30 million. The birth and death rates chart shows a significant increase in mortality if we look at that. The population shrank at the same time that the birth rate fell. But there was a baby boom just after, as is typical with wars, famines, and other severe catastrophes. In addition to improvements in world medicine that reduced mortality infant death rates, the average Chinese family now had six children.

The administration considered the skyrocketing birth rate to be a serious issue. The Chinese government recognized that the population was expanding too quickly and that action needed to be taken. The administration unveiled a new policy. It was referred to as "Later, Longer, Fewer," fewer births, later marriages, and birth intervals that are longer.

As a result, China's birth rate began to decline, but the country's leaders felt it wasn't low enough. And in 1980, they put into effect the strict one-child policy, which prohibited most families from having more than one child. Extremely harsh tactics were also used to support the policy. There were sterilization drives, IUD insertions, and forced abortions. These programs were at their worst during the one child policy, when China sterilized 20 million men and women and instigated approximately 15 million abortions in a single year, despite the fact that they started during the Later, Longer, Fewer era. But China had succeeded in its objective. Population expansion was being managed. However, China would soon find that these stringent regulations were perhaps a little too effective.

Any population must have an average of 2.1 children per couple in order to maintain its size throughout time. The replacement rate is what we refer to this phenomenon as. The notion is that 0.1 makes up for children that pass away before they reach adulthood and that one child replaces one parent. However, China has had a fertility rate well below 2 for more than three decades.

To mention that, China ultimately abandoned the one-child policy in 2016. And in 2021, after a brief experiment with a three-child limit, they eventually allowed families to have as many children as they wished. It hasn't, though. The particular family structure that the one child policy creates is a significant factor. We're looking at a family structure known as a 4-2-1, in which a pair has 4 parents above them and 1 child below.

Most nations have a variety of family patterns, some with three children and others without any. Millions of only children, however, are under increasing pressure to care for their aging parents and elderly grandparents as a result of China's 4-2-1 model. And this can make raising numerous children more difficult, especially now that living expenses are increasing. According to a recent survey, more than 50% of young individuals don't desire more than one child due to financial and employment demands.

Cash subsidies for more children, longer parental leaves, kindergarten subsidies, and other forms of financial assistance have all been observed. The truth is that very few of them have succeeded since having a child is extremely expensive and requires a lifetime commitment. It is therefore quite difficult to assign a monetary value to this. However, the demographic crisis in China is not simply about newborns.

In addition, the harmony between young and old is important.

If we examine population pyramids that depict the distribution of individuals by age, we can observe that rapidly populating nations like Kenya have a shape that is wide at the bottom, signifying a large influx of new children, and narrow at the top. Philippines-like nations with slower growth are still triangular.

But there is less of a distinction between the top and bottom. Now look at China; you'll see that it has a narrow bottom and fewer babies. And the heavy top: a greater proportion of senior citizens.

Which is a positive result of our rising standard of living and better health, but when combined with persistently low fertility, it just leads to persistent population aging. This is how the pyramid is predicted to look in 2050. And that will further reduce China's population, reduce its labor force, and place the entire nation in an exceptionally challenging situation.

China became a hub for cheap manufacturing and exports in the 1980s. A generation later, it was climbing the economic ladder quickly and was one of the largest and fastest-growing economies by GDP. However, that economic modernization not only resulted in additional declines in birthrates, it also did not result in a more prosperous economy for all.

China has a far lower standard of living than these high income nations when we compare GDP per capita, which is our best measure of living standards. Despite almost overnight economic growth, China is still a middle-income nation. Many people, particularly those living in rural regions, have not reaped the benefits of China's economic success, and the country has not yet created the safety nets required to care for its aging population.

To create the social infrastructure, such as the social programs for pensions and health care...

It requires time. And with the economy slowing down, it's actually becoming harder. Furthermore, a weaker economy will ultimately change China's status as a global manufacturing superpower. This implies that internal resource constraints would limit China's ambition and its capacity to engage with the rest of the world.

In certain respects, China is not unique.

Numerous nations in Asia and Europe are also seeing population reductions. China stands out because of how quickly things have changed there. China only began utilizing its rapidly expanding population to transform into an economic superpower 40 years ago, all the while still attempting to slow down population growth.

Since China's population growth is now officially at an end, China may need to reconsider its future—not just as a global superpower, but also for its own citizens.


About the Creator

Althea March

I am a writer who searches for facts to create compelling nonfictional accounts about our everyday lives as human beings, and I am an avid writer involved in creating short fictional stories that help to stir the imagination for anyone.

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