Recently I came across the news that China newly allows families to have three children. Quite a leap. Not long ago – I believe in 2015 – having two kids was allowed after 36 years of “one child only” policy introduced in 1979. The reasons for not allowing more than one child per family were in an attempt to support increased standard of living and be able to mitigate poverty. Interestingly enough – as I found in Wikipedia – the average family until 1979 had 4 children, which makes sense since the population of China grew in 30 years nearly by 0.4 billion from approx. 550 million in 1950 to approx. 950 million in 1979 when the policy was introduced. The Chinese population jump between 1980 and 2015 was from 1 billion to 1.4 billion in comparison with the global growth from 4.5 billion to 7.3 billion. That means that the world was slightly faster in growth than China during the one child policy. We can conclude that at this point there were parts that grew dramatically faster and the plunge from average 4 children to 1 is huge.
Reduced to pure economic growth China delivered on the goal of making its people richer and rooting out a huge amount of poverty. GDP growing from USD 263 billion and jumping to USD 11 059 billion (more than 40 times bigger). USA had the GDP at approx. 2 900 billion and that went up in 2015 to approx. USD 18 200 billion (six times bigger).
So what does that lead to? At this point in time, it seems that the population pyramid of China is contracting – that means that you have a large number of people in the mid-age range which is getting older and at the bottom you have a reproduction rate not being able to replicate the deaths at the top of the graph. Now it is good, because the majority of population is productive, young. In few generations, the risk of having few productive people, but many dependent elderly has its economical downsides. Secondly, with a superpower on the top, it is crucial to have a large, young, smart army – which China does have. That means that currently China is well situated for possible military ventures. Again, in few generations this will not be possible without a large amount of babies born to work on the population pyramid to stop stagnating or contracting. This is largely seen (and dealt with) in Europe and so far, there is not a simple remedy. The second downside of the governmental population policy starting in 1979 is a decades long surplus of male population. That is simply a fact in today’s China. The only female surplus is around the age bracket 70+ years, which I would suspect would be natural worldwide. From a sociological standpoint the problem is that you are having an uneven amount of males being single in a productive era. They should be having families, but instead they might be having trouble finding a partner. It will be extremely interesting to watch the changing demographics and relation to GDP and the changes of birth rates in regard to the changing policies as well as how this will shape Chinese economy and foreign policies for years to come. I am not an expert at the demography field, but it sure is fascinating and hopefully this post can give you a brief pointer on where and on what to look.