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China’s Population Falls

Context:

China’s population, according to its National Bureau of Statistics, fell to 1,411.8 million in 2022, from 1,412.6 million in the previous year.

  • India has not conducted an official headcount Census after 2011. But going by the United Nations projections, its population stood at 1,417.2 million in 2022 (more than China’s) and is expected to reach 1,428.6 million in 2023.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. China’s population shrinks: Mortality and fertility
  2. Why China faces a crisis?
  3. India’s opportunity

China’s population shrinks: Mortality and fertility

Mortality
  • Reduction in mortality leads to population growth
  • Mortality falls with increased education levels, public health and vaccination programs, access to food and medical care, and provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
  • Crude death rate (CDR) was 23.2 for China and 22.2 for India in 1950.
  • Life expectancy at birth has gone up between 1950 and 2020.
Fertility
  • Declining fertility rates lead to population shrinkage
  • Total fertility rate (TFR) was as high as 5.8 for China and 5.7 for India in 1950.
  • TFR has fallen sharply for India in the past three decades.
  • TFR of 2.1 is considered as “replacement-level fertility”
  • China’s TFR dipped below replacement first in 1991, which was almost 30 years before India’s

Sustained lows necessary

  • Populations can keep growing even with TFRs falling.
  • De-growth requires TFRs to remain below replacement levels for extended periods.
  • Effects of that may reflect only after a couple of generations.
  • China’s population more than doubled from 544 million in 1950 to 1.1 billion in 1987 and peaked in 2021.
  • It took over 30 years for below-replacement fertility rates to translate into negative population growth.

Why China faces a crisis?

  • China’s TFR, according to its 2020 Census, was 1.3 births per woman — marginally up from the 1.2 in the 2010 and 2000 censuses, but way below the replacement rate of 2.1. China officially ended its one-child policy, introduced in 1980, from 2016.
  • But that’s unlikely to stem the decline in the country’s population, which the UN has projected at 1,312.6 billion in 2050, a near 100 million drop from the 2021 peak.
  • The real crisis for China, however, is the decline in its population that is of prime working age.
  • If there is a large population that’s able to work and earn, not only will there be relatively fewer people to support — those too old or too young — but also greater tax revenues and savings potential from the generation of incomes. As these are directed to finance investments, a virtuous cycle of growth is unleashed — as indeed it happened in China.
  • But that cycle has started to reverse, and the share of China’s working-age population is projected to fall below 50% by 2045.

India’s opportunity

  • India’s fertility rates have fallen to replacement levels, including in rural areas due to the spread of education and changes in agricultural practices.
  • Despite the decline in fertility rates, India’s population is projected to continue growing for the next 40 years.
  • However, India’s working-age population, which crossed 50% in 2007, is set to peak at 57% in the mid-2030s, providing a window of opportunity for reaping a “demographic dividend” similar to China’s in the late 1980s to 2015.
  • The success of this demographic dividend is dependent on the creation of meaningful employment opportunities for the young population, otherwise it could turn into a demographic nightmare.

-Source: Indian Express


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