China’s birthrate fell in 2019 to 10.48 which is a 70 year low. This is between the US at 12 and Japan at 8. This means that China’s 1.4 billion people had 14.65 million births. This is down 565,000 from 2018. China’s birthrate went from 12 up to 13 after they changed the one-child policy to a two-child policy.
China’s birthrate fell 20% from the first year of the two-child policy in 2016. The birthrate is down 13% from the last year of the one-child policy. China is at half the birthrate of the early 1980s.
China’s workforce will drop by 23% by 2050. China will start losing 1% from GDP every year from 2030 onwards as their workforce starts to contract.
China only has a few options to impact these trends.
1. China can completely remove the limitations on children. This might get China back to a birthrate of 11.5 for a couple of years and then it might be a lasting 0.5 annual birthrate increase over time. This would only impact the 2050 workforce with a 21% drop instead of a 23% drop.
2. China needs to very aggressively provide financial bribes for couples to have children and to provide free childcare support for the children. This could have a similar impact as removing the limitations on children.
3. China needs to provide free fertility services. There are about 40 million older couples who would want to have children. If all of those couples could have children or multiple children then there could be 30-50 million boost in China’s 2050 workforce.
If China aggressively uses every one of the above levers they might be able to limit the workforce drop to 15% in 2050.
The other area is for China to raise the retirement age from 59 to about 70-75 from now to 2050. There would need healthcare to keep workings healthy and productive. China’s current workforce has been doing a lot of work in factories while in the future they will need more technical workers.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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41 thoughts on “China’s Birthrate Drops to 70 Year Low”
In the context of history, what has gotten us to the current level? Visiting the moon, microchips, nuclear power, etc.? Improvements to education, not gene alterations or selective breeding other than the usual Darwinian type.
We can do far better than leaning on unbridled growth to power improvements to GDP as a driver for a better society.
My point wasn’t that “generation” was the wrong term, my point was that “direction” was the wrong term.
The direction can change very quickly, but it takes generations to get there.
Well, of course, which is why I said “generation” versus “year.”
Using the word “generation” takes into account everything from birth to death.
I admit this is something you have to verify at the micro level to verify that it will happen at the macro.
Fact is that only the Chinese have had a one child policy. That is a very unnatural state. I think it is a given that it will rebound, provided their economy continues to do well, and as long as 99% of housing is not designed for 2-3 people.
One child policy may have ended, but it will take time for things to get back to a new normal.
If families with 2-3 children get a larger apartment, I predict there will be a lot more 2-3 children families.
There is no fault in your logic, but I can’t actually think of any examples where this happened. Can you?
It can change direction in a year, but that still takes 18 years to flow through to more factory workers. 22 years to more graduate engineers. 52 to more experienced managers.
You mean we have already had a couple of generations of such selective pressure.
Either that or it’s acknowledging that the act of birth isn’t really changing what’s happening.
So that rules out being an uber driver.
But I’d guess more people would prefer to move to a space colony than other ways of having their population halved.
My Dad retired at 75. And I was talking last night to an engineer starting a new project on his 78th birthday.
Most of us don’t want to live in a sweaty rotating can.
“The ‘young’ places to be aren’t even in the western hemisphere or east Asia, mainly Africa and the Middle East have young populations now”
I could never see any benefits of this in African countries where half of the population were under the age of 15 and unemployment of those under 25 runs into 60 + percent in some places.
“many female fetuses were aborted both post a pre-birth.” that’s a funny way to spell infanticide.
It seems like you’re excluding any kind of off-planet populations?
Responding to your actual point:
The knife production process we have in 2020 is:
1.. Get smart women to marry smart men and have lots of Children.
2.. Ensure that both parents and children have great nutrition, low disease rates and no exposure to either natural or artificial toxic environments.
3.. Intellectually rich environments and good schooling.
None of those steps require a lot of other children to be contrasting bad conditions.
Now you could say that step one needs a lot of children so that at least some get a great genetic mix. But remember we are talking about a whole country here. Even if the birth rate plummets we still have millions of kids.
Going off on a tangent here, but that AIDS-immunity thing was suspicious as anything.
The press release was talking about some village in China where HIV rate was 65% or something. The mere fact that there exists villages in China with worse-than-central-Africa level HIV rates is probably some sort of state secret. Even if everything else was OK the CCP would still jump hard on anyone letting that cat of the bag.
But what is the ‘grinding process’ in this case? It seems it would most likely need to be genetic alterations or perhaps some in-the-womb therapy for fetuses. Neither of those seems likely to get fast approval – look at the recent “AIDS-immunity” genetic alteration case in China.
Over the next 10-20 years we might see prepartum detection and correction of problems known to commonly result in lower intelligence – i.e. treatments that could be viewed as ‘addressing a medical condition’, rather than ‘putting a healthy unborn child at risk’.
Approvals to test treatments will be slow coming – perhaps with no treatments focused on intelligence until there’ve been similar types of treatments accepted and proven for conditions so severe that abortion is currently considered to save the baby from a short and painful life.
Their population needs to be halved as a minimum to be environmentally sustainable .
Demographics can change direction in one generation.
This is expected since the number of males born is now nearly 20% more than the number of females. This is a peak number but this number has been increasing to this point. When the one child policy was implemented many female fetuses were aborted both post a pre-birth. In China males have always been prefered more than females and as the level of prosperity increases the technology to determine the sex early and abort females is more available. So I expect that the birth numbers will continue to fall.
I have been calling out China’s coming demographic — and thus economic & geopolitical — fall for years on NBF.
One of the reasons why I got banned, I suppose.
We’re about to go through some strong selective pressure for people who actually want children.
You want more sharp knives, get some good knives and set the grinding process to make a good edge. The presence of lots of dull knives doesn’t help at all.
Very interesting point. This deserves greater attention.
A lot of dull knives must be produced in order to get a few sharp ones.
China is not alone in this, low birth rates are a problem for most developed countries as we switch from rural to urban populations.
In times past sex was the only thing that was required to get the next generation rolling. With the advent of birth control the game has changed and the result is below replacement rate births. Near future Total VR, Sex Bots, both male and female birth control as a default setting….. How long will we last?
There’s no reason GDP has to shrink with decreased population, especially when we’re on the verge of producing a second centi-billionaire or more trillion dollar companies. GDP is kept high by a tiny handful of companies and people. It is not a good measure in its own right anyway since it measure “bad” output as well as “good” output in goods and services. If we could measure well-being, which is being tried, or even just strip out rent-seeking, it would be a much better measure of life improvement.
China will be fine. The PRC is overpopulated anyway, which is why the OCP was implemented in the first place. It would be beneficial for China to become more tolerant (even supportive) of religion, as faith is a powerful stimulant of fertility. There may be as many as 50 million Christians in China already.
These things are far more mobile than is supposed. These people grew up in a one child family. They don’t even comprehend the dynamic of mutiple children. But as there become more 2 and 3 child familes, those children will think of that kind of family as normal…so things can rebound.
Over the past couple of decades we have got an example, Japan, of a country that has stayed rich with a falling (working) population.
Their overall GDP is moribund, but the GDP per capita (what really counts for most purposes) is growing and has been for a generation.
This is a new thing. In the year 2000 this was still unknown territory and a lot of the accepted wisdom I’m seeing on this subject seems to have not updated on this data point.
Admittedly, Japan is probably the best possible case. Very rich, very technically advanced, culturally and politically cohesive, a good stable government. If anyone could pull off the transition to a new economic paradigm it would be Japan. And they seem to have done it.
On the other hand, once one country has done it, it is much easier for other countries to copy their approach.
So it is not a fact that a shrinking population is doom. But we will need a lot more data points before we know how easy it is.
Young people are kept as slaves to do all the work, or kept unemployed with no hope of a job?
Your story keeps changing.
Unlike us, you’re correct on your first two points.
Intergenerational unfairness is a real issue that is destroying our society. However, it’s only minimally responsible for decline in fertility. See, if having children was about money, the proletariat would have never existed. As a matter of fact, to the extent they’re less educated, it’s poor people who make the most babies (willingly or unwillingly). A global increase in education is the biggest cause of this decline and this trend is bound to continue everywhere, even in Africa, where fertility is collapsing relatively to where they used to be. Ultimately the entire planet will probably stabilize on a steady low negative growth, unless fertility tech starts making miracles (pregnancies for women over 60, artificial wombs, free egg freezing, etc…). For good or bad, the entire planet is turning Japanese.
Making young adults’ life less miserable, either through market mechanisms or legislation or inter-generational welfare rebalancing (some European seniors are truly pampered compared to what they paid in the system), is demonstrably effective, but only to a limited extent.
Here’s 1970-2016 data:
The much higher fertility rate, together with democracy, freer market economy and alliance with the West may put India on an Equal footings with China by mid Century despite China higher GDP and average IQ giving the world a chance to avoid another totalitarian/imperialist era.
rome had a massive welfare Program…. bread was 100% free…. therefore all is bread and circus… Then there are the people that want to give everybody a minimum income Just for existing…. It’s the same thing… nothing to do except go to the circus,,, Maybe we should be building gladiator rings to how entertainment death matches…
China is kind of unique.
Currently they have about 8 workers for every person past working age. Within 20 years this will fall to about 2 workers for every person past working age. So far as we know, no other country in the history of this planet has ever faced such a situation.
The Children of Men movie is playing out in advanced countries. If you look at US / UK birth rates they’re falling below replacement too. (They import most now, like failing Empires)
That’s what happens when the 18-34 age segment of your country is bankrupt while the elders hoard almost all wealth. Rome all over again.
The ‘young’ places to be aren’t even in the western hemisphere or east Asia, mainly Africa and the Middle East have young populations now. The western hemisphere and eastern Asia are massive feudal farms for the old and rich.
Young people are figuring this one out and the the old are freaking out because they know they f*#$## up big time, but do not want to admit it or even talk about it. See they need young slaves to work on their feudal farms to bolster their retirements…
Keep those young slaves on the boomer plantation states is the name of the global game now.
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