Boosting the Birth Rate

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Following on from yesterday’s issue, Population and Productivity, it’s interesting to read about China’s new commitment to boosting its birth rate and addressing its rapidly ageing population. The Chinese Government has shown itself capable of controlling many things, but can it encourage/motivate/command hard-working and stressed-out married couples to produce more children?

China’s controversial “one-child policy” was introduced in 1978 to limit population growth, particularly in the countryside, at a time when China was a very poor country. This extreme measure has thrown up many anomalies in the country’s demographic profile (particularly the emergence of two new unique and fast growing consumer groups, Chinese Millennials and Digital Refugees) and, whilst it achieved its main objective (i.e. to limit China’s population growth and to save the world from a human catastrophe) the policy had truly served its purpose by the time it was relaxed in 2016. However, despite this relaxation “the number of live births per 1,000 people fell to a record low of 10.48 last year, down from 10.94 in 2018” as reported by Reuters, suggesting that it takes more than a stroke of a pen to reverse a policy which has become ingrained within the minds of Chinese people of child-bearing age.

To give you an idea of the problem now facing China, Reuters reports that “the number of citizens aged 60 or over stood at 254 million at the end of last year, accounting for 18.1% of the population. The number is expected to rise to 300 million by 2025 and 400 million by 2035, putting huge pressure on the country’s health and social care system. Demographers also predict that on current trends, the number of people of working age could decline by 200 million by 2050”.

It’s not hard to identify the problem. The question now is how to solve it by boosting the birth rate. Watch out for some creative ideas and policies in the coming 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) to turn the ship around.

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