When a government tries to control every aspect of life, the Law of Unintended Consequences isn’t far behind. Exhibit A: China, which from 1980 to 2015 ruthlessly enforced a “one-child policy:”
China’s population shrank last year for the first time in 70 years, experts said, warning of a “demographic crisis” that puts pressure on the country’s slowing economy…
China’s median age was 22 in 1980. By 2018, it was 40. That will rise to 46 in 2030 and 56 in 2050. In the US, the median age was 30 in 1980 and 38 in 2018. In 2030, it will be 40, and 44 in 2050. India, by comparison, had a median age of 20 in 1980 and 28 in 2018.
Get that? By mid-century, half of China’s population will be 56 or older. There will be many more years of population decline ahead. Why? Because after two generations of using everything from fines to abortion and forced sterilization to enforce one child per family, single-child or childless families are now the Chinese social norm:
Northeast China – Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin provinces – has a population of about 109 million, and its socio-educational level is several years ahead of the country average. The fertility rate in northeast China was only 0.9 in 2000 and 0.56 in 2015. This means that the next-generation population in this region is only a quarter the size of the last generation.
Demographers consider a fertility rate of 2.1 (children per woman) to be the “replacement” rate, neither increasing or decreasing a country’s population. A fertility rate of 0.56 roughly means only 1 in 4 women of childbearing age have a child! Absent an extraordinary event, China is well established on the road to demographic and economic decline previously pioneered by Japan.
Japan’s economic crisis was essentially a demographic crisis. The decline in young people in the labour force has led to a shortage in manufacturing: the workforce employed in industry decreased from 22.9 million in 1992 to 17 million in 2017, and the workforce is ageing, leading to a decline in production and innovation. As a result, Japan’s manufacturing exports as a share of the global total declined from 12.5 per cent in 1993 to 5.2 per cent in 2017, and the number of Japanese firms ranked in the Fortune Global 500 fell from 149 in 1994 to 52 in 2018.
In any society, an increase in the number of elderly leads to a drop in savings, and a decrease in the labour force leads to a decline in return on investment, which reduces the investment rate…
Since 2000, China’s total fertility rate has been lower than that of Japan. The average in 2010-2016 was 1.18 in China and 1.42 in Japan. This means China’s ageing crisis will be more severe than Japan’s, and its economic outlook bleaker.
In Japan’s case, the demographic crisis was precipitated by cultural changes. Women found new opportunities outside the home and began marrying later… if at all. Unwed parenting still carries social stigma in Japan, so this had a dramatic effect. Add to that the notorious Japanese work ethic of self-destructive loyalty to a corporation, and it’s easy to understand why professional couples have been also reluctant to have children for more than a generation.
China, however, will have to face the fact its government prevented or aborted the next generation. But before we look down on our noses at them, it’s important to recognize the impact of our own government’s actions. Since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, millions of babies have been voluntarily aborted in the United States. In this era of heated debate over immigration, legal or otherwise, it’s significant to realize that without such immigration, the population of the United States and of most Western European nations would be in decline as well. That doesn’t mean I support the ongoing invasion of the U.S., however.
The future belongs first to those who show up. It looks very likely the world powers of today have sown the seeds of their own overthrow, and are destined to be replaced. Groups have been dispossessed of their patrimony and replaced before. Perhaps reservations await the descendants of those who developed the concept for the original Native Americans. History has a knack for that kind of irony.