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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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Chinese Government Doesn't Want Us to Know About the Low Birth Rate

A recent story in the South China Morning Post notes that the latest Statistical Yearbook from China omits mention of the birth rate. Very suspicious!
China’s National Bureau of Statistics has been publishing the data on the “age-specific fertility rate of child­bearing women” – the measure of how many children were born to different age groups – annually since 2004.
But in the 2017, China’s statistics yearbook, which sets out the data from the previous 12 months, the bureau said it had decided to remove these figures, which help to calculate the country’s overall fertility ratio [the total fertility rate, as we would call it].
Almost three years ago, as the one-child policy was being lifted in China, I commented on the fact that demographers did not expect a rise in the birth rate, whereas the Chinese government did. Not surprisingly, the demographers appear to continue to be right.
The statistics agency’s number, which indicated a fertility ratio of 1.05 in 2015, ran counter to an estimated fertility rate of 1.6 from the National Heath and Family Planning Commission, the body that is responsible for China’s family planning policy and ruthlessly implemented the country’s one-child policy for decades. 
While the statistics agency did not explain why it stopped publishing the data, demographers said it underscored the problems with China’s official population figures.
Liang Zhongtang, a demographer who sat on the state family planning commission in the 1980s, said China’s fertility rate had failed to show any meaningful increase after the country officially rolled out a universal two-child policy in 2016, adding that could be one reason for the non-disclosure. “A gap between what the government actually got and what they had expected may persuade them to stop releasing the data,” Liang said.
If the birth rate really is still close to one child per woman, as we expect it really is, the consequences for China's age transition are clear: the aging population will continue to grow more quickly than the younger labor force, and this will create continual strains on the Chinese economy. It is not clear whether or not this feeds into the new "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" that is now enshrined in the communist party's constitution. What we do know from the South China Morning Post story is that family planning wasn't mentioned by Xi during the recent communist party gathering. "Instead, Xi used the much milder term “population policy” and stressed that China must “enhance strategic research” into its demographics."

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