1.34 billion... a lot of people by any estimation but China's population according to the 2010 census is about 60 million less than the 1.4 billion previously predicted by some demographic models. As well, China's population grew by 5.84 percent from the 1.27 billion recorded in the year 2000. Contrast that rate of increase with the 11.7 percent jump between 1990 and 2000.
“These figures have shown the trend of excessively rapid growth of China’s population has been under effective control,” stated Ma Jiantang, head of China's National Bureau of Statistics.
Not so fast, Ma. China's draconian laws pertaining to family size may ratcheted annual population growth to under 1 percent but ripple effects will be far-reaching: a smaller future labor pool will pay less total taxes, demand higher wages and may balk at carrying the weight of an increasingly graying population on their economic backs.
China is also rapidly becoming more urbanized. In 2010, nearly half of China’s citizens (49.7 percent) lived in towns and cities. Only 36.1 percent lived in urban areas according to the 2000 census. China's economic success has been largely accomplished by way of cheap labor who have migrated to cities from poor rural farms and collectives. What happens when that tap runs dry?
There's more: census results paint a striking picture of China's shift from pink to gray. In 2000, the proportion of mainland Chinese aged 14 or younger was 22.89 percent – in 2010 the percentage had dropped to just 16.60 percent.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the number of people aged 60 or older grew 2.93 percentage points to 13.26 percent.
These figures are a snapshot in time but their message is clear: a set of trends has been set in motion and as dire as the numbers look in 2010, they could pale in comparison to what 2020 might bring.
Could these advance warnings induce changes in China's “One-Child” policy? Ma Jiantang is leaving the door open, as it were, stating that China would have to “actively respond to the new challenges in demographic development.”
No timetable was announced, however, and while government considers what to do, a different kind of population bomb is steadily ticking away. (via Reuters and Xinhua)