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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

China's Demographic Dividends

I am hard at work trying to write something, so I don't have much time or energy to blog, but two pieces on China that cannot go unremarked. Firstly And Xie again: this time he has picked up on the demographic issues related to China's high savings rate. Also the UN held an experts meeting on ageing in August, and one of the papers was on China: DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND AND PROSPECTS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA by Wang Feng, of the University of California Irvine and Andrew Mason, of the University of Hawaii and the East West Center. Just a short couple of extracts to give a taste:

During the last two and half decades, China has undergone demographic as well as economic changes of historic proportions. Demographically, China has transformed itself from a "demographic transitional" society, where reductions in mortality led to rapid population growth and subsequent reductions in fertility led to a slower population growth, to a "post-transitional" society, where life expectancy has reached new heights, fertility has declined to below-replacement level, and rapid population aging is on the horizon. In the not-too-distant future -- in a matter of a few decades -- China’s population will start to shrink, an unprecedented demographic turn in Chinese history in the absence of wars, epidemics, and famines of massive scales. In this process, China will also lose its position as the most populous country in the world.

The rationale for China’s one-child policy was a neo-Malthusian perspective on the relationship between population and development – a view largely dismissed by mainstream economists. The architects of China’s population policy can point, however, to the post-reform economic record as evidence of the success of the policy. This assertion can be questioned on two grounds. The first is the extent to which the transition to low fertility was accelerated by the one-child policy (Wang, 2005). The second, considered in this paper, is the extent to which fertility decline, the slow-down in population growth, and changes in age structure contributed to China’s economic success. In light of the recent and future changes in China's age structure, we also examine and speculate in this paper the role of population age structure changes in affecting China's prospect for economic development in the coming decades of the twenty-first century.