China’s economy has been experiencing an unprecedented slowdown and it is showing no signs of an immediate recovery. China’s unattainable growth rate as the Chinese government invested blindly in infrastructure and the subsequent devaluation of Yuan and the US-China trade war has had a devastating impact on its economy. However, these are not the major challenges faced by the Chinese economy. The real challenge lies in its ageing economy which is a self-inflicted wound thanks to the Communist Party’s failed social engineering.
Just to give you a perspective, by 2050, 330 million Chinese will be over age 65 and is set to become the No.1 economic problem for China going forward.
Based on current trends, China’s population will peak at 1.44 billion in 2029, after which the country will experience a negative population growth rate. The scale of the problem is partly due to the legacy of the one-child policy: history’s biggest social-engineering experiment.
China introduced a controversial bill in 1980 which prohibited couples from having more than one child in order to reduce the number of mouths to feed but Beijing soon realised that the bill did more harm than good and hence, permitted the parents from having two children from 2016. The policy now stands to be scrapped, with a draft civil code published in August 2018 omitting any reference to “family planning.”
However, the scaling back by the Chinese government has done little to defuse the ticking time bomb as after an 8% bump in 2016–mainly women who’d waited for years to have a second childbirths then fell 3.5% the following year. The economists widely believe that China is experiencing the phenomena of ‘middle-income trap’ where rapidly developing economies stagnate as incomes reach the median level and the emerging middle-class start having fewer babies. The costs of living and education are soaring in China and many students are flocking to foreign shores like Australia to pursue higher education. China’s failed social engineering experiment saw the Chinese women give more preference to their careers rather than starting a family and this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
China will soon experience a grey wave and its woefully underprepared to handle it as its economy which entirely relied on labour-intensive manufacturing which has left it’s elderly ill-equipped and penniless to prepare for their retirement as many seniors in China reach retirement age without having obtained the necessary capital to fund their pensions, health care and lifestyle.
According to a 2013 study by Peking University, only 3% of respondents had a commercial pension and 0.2% a private occupational pension issued by a private employer.
China’s aim to decrease the country’s birth rate has resulted in a spike in the amount of elderly as its population continues to shrink. Now, there are fewer young taxpayers to prop up an older generation that is living for an unprecedentedly long time. In a despicable move, China which has promoted a dramatic U-turn is now coaxing its women to start a family and those who refuse to abide by the same are shamed by the Communist government. Women are vigorously discouraged to delay marriage for career, with the derisive label Sheng nu, or “leftover women,” given to unmarried women over 27. Abortions, once widely accessible, are beginning to be controlled. Chinese parents are unlikely to now have more than two children because the children are effectively the nest-egg who will care for them once they grow old. A young Chinese faces the prospect of caring for four grandparents and two parents apart from starting and caring for his/her own family. At such a time, it is unlikely the Chinese parents who are already caring for 6 elderly to have more than a single child which spells doom for China and it is of no surprise that the registrations for marriage in China have declined annually since 2013; the number of divorces has climbed every year since 2006. A rising section of China’s middle class no longer see marriage as the only path to security and are choosing to forgo a traditional family life and prioritize careers. China now has 34 million more men than women, because of a preference for male heirs and a history of selective abortions. By 2020, China will have 24 million single men of marrying age unable to find wives and China is simply not prepared to solve it. While the Chinese communist party continues to be male-dominated however, more women than men attend Chinese universities. Women are responsible for 41% of Chinese GDP–the highest proportion in the world. Some 7 in 10 Chinese mothers work. Eighty per cent of all female self-made billionaires, globally, are Chinese.
China now has an elderly population but no pension. Its economy is crippled by unattainable debts and its debt is already three times its GDP and the fact that China’s pension shortfall could top $130 billion by 2020 – China is staring at an impending economic crisis in a year.
Despite the new policy, some 17.58 million babies were born in mainland China last year, compared to the 241 million people aged over 60 and it seems that China has no hope of getting rich before it gets old. Meanwhile, across the country, 3 million couples registered their marriages with the Ministry of Civil Affairs in the first quarter, down from nearly 4.3 million in the same period of 2013 – a substantial decline of 30 per cent and China’s move to incentivise couples to have more children will only have a detrimental impact on its economy.
There is a feeling in China that there needs to be another Tiananmen Square flashpoint to wake the Communist Party from its slumber. China’s economy stands to fall apart if the Communist Party doesn’t take the necessary steps to revitalize the country’s economy. China is going to be an old old nation courtesy its ageing population.