Though it has yet to be released, China’s latest ten-year census is certain to confirm what demographers have warned of for years: A labor crisis looms as the fertility rate remains low and the country ages at a dangerous speed. Five years after the country reversed its one-child policy to allow—and encourage—couples to to have two children, there is little to suggest it has had the intended effect. While the fertility rate increased slightly the year after the new policy went into effect, it has declined ever since and remains below replacement rate. Economic constraints, insufficient workplace and government support for parents (particularly mothers), and, likely, decades of messaging extolling the benefits of raising a single child have kept birth rates stubbornly low. At the same time, health advances have China’s elderly living longer than ever. In 2000, those 65 and older made up 7 percent of the population; by 2019, that figure had reached 12.57 percent. This demographic imbalance will have major implications for the country’s labor force, along with its ability to grow its economy.


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