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China’s population drops for the first time in 60 years: How this happened and its implications

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Population and Associated Issues

 

Source: TH

 Direction: The article highlights the shifts in the population of India (increasing) and China (decreasing) and the implications of the shift.

 

Context:

  • According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, its population fell to 1,411.8 million in 2022, from 1,412.6 million in the previous year.
  • This is a landmark event, for a country that is soon set to be surpassed by India (as per UN projections, India’s population is expected to reach 1,428.6 million in 2023) as home to the greatest number of people.

 

What has been behind these shifts?

Mortality:

  • A country’s population increases with a reduction in the relative number of deaths, while population growth slows/reverses with declining fertility rates.
  • The crude death rate (CDR) – the number of persons dying per year per 1,000 population – was 23.2 for China in 1950 (22.2 for India). It fell to single digits of 7.3 in 2020 (7.4 for India).
  • Another mortality indicator is life expectancy at birth. Between 1950 and 2020, it went up from 43.7 to 78.1 years for China and from 41.7 to 70.1 years for India.

 

Fertility:

  • The total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of babies an average woman (aged 15-49) bears over her lifetime – was as high as 5.8 for China and 5.7 for India in 1950.
    • According to its 2020 Census, China’s TFR was 1.3 births per woman.
    • The TFR has fallen sharply for India too (from 3.4 to 2 between 1992-93 and 2019-21).
  • A TFR of 2.1 is considered as “replacement-level fertility” – a woman having two children replaces herself and her partner with two new lives.

 

Why is India’s population increasing, while China’s shrinking?

  • China’s One-Child Policy (1980 to 2015): This has helped China to prevent nearly 400 million births.
  • Sustained lows necessary: De-growth requires TFRs to remain below replacement levels for extended periods and it will reflect only after a couple of generations.
    • China’s TFR dipped below replacement first in 1991, which was almost 30 years before India’s.
Potential implications of these shifts
For ChinaFor India
Negative: Decline in the working-age population (less tax revenues, savings potential – poor growth). That’s why China officially ended its one-child policy in 2016.

 

Positives: Overall labour supply still exceeds demand.

Opportunity: The share of the working-age population will peak at 57% towards the mid-2030s.

 

Challenges: In the absence of meaningful employment opportunities for the youths, the demographic dividend can well turn into a demographic nightmare.

 

Insta Links:

UNDESA World Social Report 2023

 

Mains Links:

Q. Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail. (UPSC 2021)