The one-child policy defined China’s demographic transition for over three decades.
But to combat an aging population and declining birthrates, the government scrapped the policy for a new two-child policy in 2016. Despite this massive change, China still faces a growing demographic crisis.
The above animated population pyramid from James Eagle looks at the distribution of China’s population by age group since 1950, with projections up to the year 2100.
When communist Vietnam recently introduced private retirement funds, it was taking a step not only closer to capitalism, but also toward changing a young pension system that some worry may buckle if citizens get old before getting rich.
Last year marked the first time workers could put part of their paychecks into private retirement accounts, on top of the share contributed to the state pension. But analysts say bigger, systemic change is needed to enable retirement for all, even as the International Labor Organization says the state fund is robust.
Retirees would seem to be the envy of the neighborhood, receiving payouts worth 75% of their prior wages — the fifth-highest among 70 countries in the Allianz Global Pension Report 2020.
But Vietnam’s system covers just 40% of the elderly, which explains why women keep working longer there than in all but five other countries, the report shows.
As the demographic transition enters a new stage of a longevity transition, focus needs to extend beyond an ageing society towards a longevity society. An ageing society focuses on changes in the age structure of the population, whereas a longevity society seeks to exploit the advantages of longer lives through changes in how we age. Achieving a longevity society requires substantial changes in the life course and social norms, and involves an epidemiological transition towards a focus on delaying the negative effects of ageing. The broad changes required to achieve healthy longevity include an increased focus on healthy life expectancy, a shift from intervention towards preventive health, a major public health agenda to avoid increases in health inequality, the establishment of longevity councils to ensure coordinated policy across government departments, and intergenerational assessment of policies, to ensure that in adapting to longer lives, policies are not skewed towards older people. A longevity society represents a new stage for humanity and requires deep-seated notions about age and ageing to be challenged if society is to make the best use of the additional time that longevity brings.
The estimated number of people aged 65 or older in Japan stood at a record high of 36.4 million as of Wednesday, an increase of 220,000 from a year before, the internal affairs ministry said Sunday.
The share of those aged adults in the nation’s total population rose to a record 29.1%, the highest among 201 countries and regions across the world.
Older men totaled 15.83 million, or 26% of the total male population. There were 20.57 million elderly women, or 32% of the female population.
The ministry released the data ahead of Respect for the Aged Day on Monday, a national holiday.
In Japan, the share of aged people has been rising since 1950. The figure is expected to rise to as high as 35.3% in 2040 when the so-called second baby-boomer generation, or people born in the early 1970s, reaches the age of 65 or older, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.
Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.
A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.
The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.
“A paradigm shift is necessary,” said Frank Swiaczny, a German demographer who was the chief of population trends and analysis for the United Nations until last year. “Countries need to learn to live with and adapt to decline.”
Author(s): Damien Cave, Emma Bubola, Choe Sang-Hun.
Births in China plunged 18% in 2020, though Covid-19 may have played a part, and, if so, fewer newborns might arrive in 2021 as well.
China will remain enormous, but the figures signal a waning of the demographic trends that came to define its modern era, with its huge working-age population spurring 40-plus straight years of economic expansion. A drop in household size, for example, to 2.6 last year from 3.1 a decade earlier, highlights the effects of the birth restrictions since about 1980.
The challenge for China now is its shrinking working-age population versus its growing elderly one, represented by only 12 million annual births, a fractional number for such a populous country.
In the latest census, 63% of Chinese were ages 15 to 59, compared with 70% in 2010, while nearly 19% in 2020 were 60 years old or above, versus 13% a decade earlier.