This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chinese Women Prefer One-Child Families

Today's New York Times has a story that isn't really news to you if you have read Chapter 6 of the 11th edition of my text, or paid attention to my previous post on the one-child policy in China. Nonetheless, this is so important a topic for the world as a whole that it is always useful to be thinking about it. The story is about the low likelihood of China's birthrate rising much above its current level--which is well below replacement level--and so China is moving past its "demographic dividend" into an era of an increasingly older and presumably less productive and more dependent population.
China’s rise has depended partly on a huge spurt in the number of workers as a percentage of the population. This surge has created a cheap, productive labor force for its factories, mines and construction crews.
Now the size of the work force is leveling off. Demographers say it will begin to shrink within just five years, albeit slowly at first.
Meanwhile, the ranks of the elderly are swelling so fast that by 2040, projections show that the median age of Chinese will be higher than that of Americans, but Chinese will enjoy just one-third of the per capita income, adjusted for the cost of living. Experts say that will make China the first major country to grow old before it is fully economically developed.
But as calls for a relaxation of the policy intensify, and official hints of looser restrictions increase, so do concerns that the one-child culture is now so ingrained among Chinese that the authorities may not be able to encourage more births even if they try.
A growing body of research suggests that much of the decline in Chinese fertility over the past three decades is not a result of the one-child policy and its various permutations, but of the typical drop in birthrates that occurs as societies modernize.
These trends are not lost on the Chinese government. The wide range of investments that China is making all over the world, but especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, can easily be viewed as the way that the country will pay for its aging population. It will not worry about having a new batch of its own babies. Rather, it will make money from other countries' batches of babies, not to mention other countries' non-human economic resources.

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