October 31, 2006


China's reverse population bomb (Scott Zhou, 11/01/06, Asia Times)

By 2015, China's baby-boom generation will start reaching retirement age. China is already an "aging society" by United Nations definition. The UN maintains that a society is defined as aging when adults aged 65 or older exceed 7% of the total population. China crossed this line some time between 2000 and 2005.

It is estimated that by 2010, the country's population of those over 60 years old will reach 174 million, accounting for 12.78% of the total. Furthermore, China's work-age population, 15-64, will reach its peak in 2020 to a total of 940 million. It will then decline and be overtaken by India.

Around 2035, the whole Chinese population will peak at 1.46 billion, and then begin to decline, again to be replaced by India as the world's most populous nation. [...]

Nowadays, quite a number of economists, inside China and outside, are keen on making headlines by predicting when China's economy will overtake the United States, but they may simply ignore the demographic dynamics between the two countries.

From 2000 through to 2050, China, India and the US will be the three most populous countries in the world, which will largely define the geo-economy in the 21st century. Of the three countries, China's major challenge lies in its preparedness for an aging society and its ability to build an army of skilled workers.

China is getting older faster than it's getting richer compared with the US. According to a UN projection, by 2040, the proportion of elderly people in Chinese population will rise to 28%, which is higher than what it predicts for the United States. Also, in the long run, India's population structure will become better than China's in that in 15 years India will have a labor force that is both bigger and younger than China's.

China's internal dynamics will change too. If it fails to put in place an adequate system of old-age support by then, it will be unable to manage the demographic transition without widespread economic hardship - which will jeopardize President Hu Jintao's strategy of building up a "harmonious society".

The experts haven't accounted for demographics? Who'da think it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 31, 2006 8:25 AM

I have noticed that this year's kids clothes (mainly from Target) that we are buying are no longer made in China but Indonesia, Vietnam and Guatamala. Wonder if this is a trend overall, shifting away from China or just my personal limited experience?

Posted by: Bob at October 31, 2006 11:47 AM

Bob, you're right. Chinese labor has moved on to more lucrative work. Too bad because Chinese made soft goods were the best I've ever seen besides the fine sewing by old world immigrants.

Posted by: erp at October 31, 2006 12:25 PM

The preferred past subjunctive colloquial form of "think" is "thunk," as in, "who'da thunk it."

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 31, 2006 5:29 PM