Battlepanda: The reverse population bomb in China


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The reverse population bomb in China

(Via the Economist's View)
It is going to be very interesting to see what happens to China in the next 20 years or so. China's staggering growth and emergence as an manufacturing powerhouse has excited some and frightened many. But could it be drawing down its most valuable asset by the day?
One reason for China’s stellar growth is that it is at a demographic sweet-spot. The massive reduction in infant mortality achieved by China’s barefoot doctors in the 1960s and 1970s is now yielding a surge of young workers – an extra 10m working-age adults per year. China’s challenge now is just to absorb them into the labour force. ... There are few pensioners and there are not many children either. The rabbit is indeed in the middle of the python. As early as 2015, China’s working age population will actually start falling. By 2040, today’s young workers will be pensioners – in fact the world’s second largest population, after India, will be Chinese pensioners. ... The desperate rush for economic growth is fuelled by fears that China could grow old before it grows rich. ... Imposing the one-child policy ... is having an extraordinary effect. If you can have only one child it becomes highly desirable to have a boy. The rule is not as strictly enforced as it was, but you can now see its effect on the second child, which in the eyes of many Chinese really is the last chance to have a boy. For every 100 female second children, there are 152 males. Overall, there are now about 120 boys for every 100 girls in China. ... China is going to have to attract large-scale female immigration or many of its young men will leave. ... So China is going to be full of old people and rather earnest, frustrated young men. It will be one of the most dramatic and unusual demographic changes the world will have seen for a very long time, and Chinese leaders now would do well to plan for such a future.

The question is, of course, would China be able to transition from its labor-intensive manufacturing base to a higher value economy that would have a hope of supporting this giant wave of baby-boomers without choking off growth.