China's population

Is there a crisis brewing in the world's most populated country?
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China confirmed its population grew to 1.412 billion in 2020, from 1.4 billion a year earlier, according to the results of its once-in-a-decade census. But the number of new births fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2020, adding to concerns about China’s ageing population, with the demographic data set to have far-reaching social policy and economic implications.

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Population growth is almost irrelevant to economic growth for a developing country. Besides, China has millions of rural workers, who can partially offset any potential labour shortage. It also has the option of raising the retirement age.
The government has zeroed in on rising property prices near popular school districts and unequal access to education as areas in urgent need of reform. As these reforms gain pace, questions remain over whether they can succeed to lower education costs and convince more young couples to have children.
Two measures announced by the Ministry of Education indicate that the government is trying to address the reasons young couples are reluctant to have more children. But given the complexity of the related issues, tackling the demographic crisis will not be straightforward.
Chinese people are living a life that could have only been dreamed about one or two generations ago, but there are different schools of thought as to the reason.
The reluctance of young people in mainland China to have children brings to mind the other ways in which children fail their parents in traditional Chinese culture.
The three-child policy is unlikely to reverse the demographic slide, but China can mitigate likely impacts on the economy. Besides raising the retirement age, it could make the most of its educated workers, adopt automation and consider outsourcing.
Merely allowing three children won’t be enough. To boost births, China will have to offer financial incentives, significantly expand its childcare capacity, and promote women-friendly policies and equality.
The announcement of the policy reflects an awareness of the seriousness of the problem. Addressing it comprehensively will require reforming the social security system, tackling soaring housing prices and improving access to basic public services.
For Beijing’s new three-child policy to bear fruit, it has to reflect on the traumatic effects of the draconian one-child limit.
Rather than castigating young people for being feckless, individualistic and selfish, a more productive approach involves acknowledging they may well have different aspirations from previous generations.
The latest census has revealed a significant slowdown in the population growth rate, fertility rate and the number of migrant workers. Given that productivity growth has also been declining, the prospects for the economy remain grim.
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