BBC News recently covered China’s falling birth rate, the lowest it has been in seven decades. They also observed that despite this the population of China was still rising, due to a lower death rate.
Analysing the raw data from the World Bank we start to be able to understand the detail…
Firstly, the “one child policy” introduced in 1979 appears to have had some impact. The highlighted sections of the chart below show the beginnings of the policy on the population. While there is an impact in each decade, the total population of each age group tends to creep back up as the decade progresses.
Secondly, the population that has really grown is the over 40s, who have gone from being less than 25% of the overall population in 1968, to almost half of the population by 2018.
It might be that there is a ‘blip’ in the early part of this decade of the population of 40-50 year olds, as per the previous decades, but the drivers of the increase in this population (such as the impact of improved healthcare, and movement of the populous towards the coast) is likely to outweigh any impact from the early ‘80s on the overall population aged 40-50.
Looking at the age profile of women in the Chinese population, the underlying shape of the graph is very similar to that of the total population. However, the number of women of childbearing age has dropped in absolute terms since the turn of the century, and the population coming through from the lower age stratifications shows no signs of increasing.
Therefore, the trend of an ever-increasing population aged 40+ looks set to increase.
And, it is likely to become more dominated by women. Since 2010, 49.5% of all men have smoked, whereas only 2.1% of women have smoked (in the UK, these figures are 16.5% and 13.0% respectively). If this continues, not only will China be an ageing population, but an ageing female population.