Will China’s population situation affect China’s future?

For years China implemented a series of policies intended to slow the growth of its population, including limiting the number of children couples could have to one. This enabled China to stabilize its total population successfully.

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However, it seems that China delayed relaxation of the One Child Policy. China ended its one-child policy only in 2015. It is becoming apparent that a declining birth rate and an increasing life expectancy would in the future cause China to have too few workers that are able to support an enormous and aging population.

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Even after relaxing these policies to boost births, in the future China will still suffer from the effects of the “middle income trap,” where rapidly developing economies stagnate as incomes reach median level and the emerging middle class start having fewer babies.

The long-term effects of all these challenges mean that China will soon enter an era of “negative growth,” or a contraction in the size of its total population. Fewer people mean less domestic consumption, and thus rapidly slowing economic growth.

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The family structure in China has dramatically changed too in recent years. In traditional Chinese society, the elderly used to live with one of their children. But today more and more young adults are moving out, leaving their elderly parents alone. This means that the future generation of elderly people may not have family members to tend to their needs. 

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As China’s population ages, the nation will also have to take a hard look at how this shift will affect its ability to support its senior citizens. I foresee potential stress on welfare in the future. Large expense on pension benefits and medical security is inevitable now and in the near future.

Therefore, in the short and medium term, it shall be difficult for China to change the trend of its population growth. However, timely adjustment of fertility policies and realization of independent family planning will help form a more balanced population structure in the long-term future.

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