Census Data Leads Experts to Believe China’s Population Will Plummet

Based on expert analysis of China’s 2010 census’ data, a recent Southern Weekend article claims that China’s population will reach its peak of 1.386 – 1.4 billion people sometime between 2020 and 2023. After that, the population will drop dramatically to approximately 750 million by the year 2100.

According to the sixth national census held in 2010, there are currently 220 million children aged 0 – 14 in China, comprising 16.60% of the total population. This number has startled a number of researchers, who see the figure as closing in on Japan’s birth rate of 1.3.

Professor of Sociology at Peking University and Vice Chair of the Population Studies Committee, Guo Zhigang met with Southern Weekend to explain the data provided by the 2010 census. According to Professor Guo, the data shows that China’s birth rate is alarmingly low. The amount of 0 – 14 year olds has dropped 6.3% since 2000, and 17% since 1982.

In contrast, China’s aging population has risen quite dramatically. People aged 65 and older currently constitute 8.87% of the population, up 1.87% from 2000, and 3.87% from 1982.

“China has already hit the point of no return,” said Peking University’s Professor of Population Studies Mu Guangzong. “China has fallen into the trap of having too few children and too many elderly. It’s the trap of having a very low birth rate.”

Academics interviewed by Southern Weekend believe that the data derived from the recent census undermines the One Child Policy Committee’s figure of China maintaining a birth rate of 1.8. Birth rate numbers signify the average amount of children each woman bears. The number 1.8, for example, would mean that each woman has 1.8 children in her lifetime.

“Looking at the data, we have reason to believe that China’s birth rate is somewhere between 1.4 and 1.5,” said Professor of Sociology at Peking University Li Jianxin.

Chen Youhua, Professor of Sociology at Nanjing University, commented that the data provided in the 2010 census is more conclusive than the data from the 2000 census, with a margin of error of only 0.12%, down from 1.81% in 2000.

“The figure of 1.8 has never been supported by official census data,” said Professor Liang Zhongtang of Shanghai’s Academy of Social Sciences. “This is the number provided by the One Child Policy Committee in the mid-90s. The Committee believes the number 1.5 to be too low.”

The graph above illustrates that China’s population will reach its peak sometime between 2020 and 2023. The three lines represent low, middle and high-level estimates, with birth rates of 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6, respectively.
This graph represents the decline in children aged 0 – 14 over the next century, showed in percent.

Under the current One Child Policy, Population Studies academics believe China’s current birth rate to be the lowest it’s ever been.

Statistical data gathered from the One Child Policy committee, and provided by the Bureau Chief of Statistical Data Zhang Erli, Professors Guo Zhigang and others have determined the percent of the population affected by the One Child Policy in 1999. Throughout all of China, couples only allowed one child comprised 35.4% of the population, 53.6% of couples were allowed 1.5, 9.7% were allowed 2 children, and 1.3% were allowed 3 children.

0 thoughts on “Census Data Leads Experts to Believe China’s Population Will Plummet”

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report
  2. This post isn’t serious, is it?

    How to understand the sentence “53.6% of couples were allowed 1.5 [children]”?

    Also, when contradicting one data with another I’d like to see some proof. Where exactly is the data to which the following section refers –>
    “Looking at the data, we have reason to believe that China’s birth rate is somewhere between 1.4 and 1.5” ??

    And finally… who can seriously make predictions up to 2100?


  3. Crystal : The 1.5 children is a reference to the policy specifying that when the first child is a girl, you can have a second one. This makes for an average of 1.5 children per couple if all families use this right. This disposition is used in rural areas (based on hukou I guess ?).

    I am still surprised by the numbers as I always thought minorities were not affected at all by the policy. Are they the ones allowed two children?

    It would be nice to have the raw data and to conduct our own statistical analysis on it, but I am not holding my breath …


  4. yeah, cause when a population goes into decline everyone sees this as a sign of progress. The truth is that high population growth is a bad thing, but declining population is also bad for reasons that hardly need explaining.


  5. I’m curious about the margin of error. Are methods for determining the margin of error that are valid on most places necessarily valid in China? With the 1 Child policy, there’s obviously an incentive to under-report children, and how effective was this census at getting accurate information on the many migrants?

    I’m also guessing it assumes no major changes in policy going forward. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese government reacts to this going forward. My guess would be that they see this as a policy success and a part of China transitioning from labor-intensive, low value-added industries to an economy built on a smaller, more educated, more affluent population.


  6. Well, Nobody knows what’s going to happen at 2100 and China could probably adjust its one child policy by then. But a increasing population is certainly a bigger problem than a shrinking one.


  7. @putzster – Similar to inflation, an increasing population is not a problem unless it is excessive, in fact it is a sign of relative national health. No country I can think of which has had a declining population has been economically healthy.

    However, long term predictions can be quite unreliable.


  8. Long term modelling in whatever discipline is not worth the graph paper it is written on. Get lucky on a 10 year prediction and you are doing well.

    Totally extraneous factors – the seven plagues of Egypt – can quite easily blow a short-term prediction out the window.


  9. The issue isn’t simply that the population appears to be falling, but that there would then be very few youth to support very many elderly. Yet another example of a global problem that the Chinese have taken and really run wild with.


  10. @KT – Although some estimates (The Economist‘s 1987 predictions for economic growth in China to 2010) have been remarkably close to the mark. However, given the rosy predictions given at the same time for Japan, it is not correct to focus only on those predictions that weren’t quickly rendered false.


  11. I guess it should also be said – revoking the one child policy (OCP) may have no effect. Firstly, the prime cause of the decline in child birth is as likely to be increased economic opportunity as it is government controls. Here’s a couple of indicators:

    1) Live births per woman declined by less in the years immediately after the introduction of the OCP than it did in the years immediately before.

    2) Other countries have also seen a rapid decline in live births per woman in periods of high economic growth. For example, India, at circa ten years into its economic liberalisation (initiated in the early/mid-90’s and in some ways still incomplete), now has roughly the same birth rate as China did in 1987 (2.4 live births per woman – see here: http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/21/world/china-s-birth-rate-on-rise-again-as-official-sanctions-are-ignored.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm ).


  12. I’m seeing a lot of retarded posts here, though the one above mine was pretty good.

    While my undergraduate degree was statistically related, I’m not an expert in population projection, but then neither are the rest of you. Thus, you should probably believe them when it says “experts” in the OP.

    Long term statistical projections are not bullshit when the average human lives more than 75 years. You guys need to remember that they state very clearly in the OP that China is beyond the point of no return. As I said, I’m not an expert in population projection, but I’m guessing that their method of projection was to examine the current generation that is about to die and all generations between now and 2100 that would die. This would include the baby boom generation of the Mao era plus the current generation of children aged 0-14 which they said comprises 16.6% of the population. Assuming that all those people die by the year 2100, there is no reason to believe, based on China’s current birth rates, that China’s population will not plummet. By “point of no return,” I am assuming the researchers found what the birth rate would have to be for the Chinese population to be the same in 2100 as it is today or in 2020, and they likely found that the required rate would need to be absurdly high.

    As far as underreporting goes, I really doubt that the researchers failed to account for those factors and I also doubt that underreporting of births is such a vast issue that it could significantly affect the results of a comprehensive, nationwide statistical analysis. Now before you start sperging and saying, “Oh, but I know so many people from the village with this many children” remember that your acquaintances are 100% anecdotal and not in any way representative of anything.

    The words “reached the point of no return” are telling here. That likely means that the only way for China’s population to not go through the floor by 2100 would be for us to come up with some method of keeping people alive for 200 years or something.


  13. FOARP, you really have to think before putting down your thoughts, if you have any. With your flawed logic, any country with an increasing population are doing better off. Many countries with population problems like India and Bangladesh have issues with resources, are essentially eating off their land and have to rely on other countries for food. Food security is going to be a problem in the future and a famine is realistic possibility. This is worse than any social or economic problem with any country with a “declining” population.


  14. @Putzster – And you have to learn how to read. I specifically stated that countries with excessively high birth rates (which, FYI, no longer includes India, a country which is also undergoing rapid economic growth) have problems. Like Josh pointed out, declining population can become irreversible.


  15. FOARP, did I REPLY to you when I said “But a increasing population is certainly a bigger problem than a shrinking one.”


  16. Having large population is a double edged sword.

    People are also forgetting the simple fact that people will move around. Who says that in 30 years, poor kids from countries poorer than China will not move into China to increase its population?

    Also, technology is constantly improving. If the reason why having a lot of elderly is a bad thing is because they need to be supported by the young, then the developments in technology may solve this problem by enabling elderly to live longer, work beyond China’s current 53 year of average retirement age.


  17. @FOARP seriously
    @josh, who in his yankee 101 statistical fervour, is rather loose with the term retard.

    My objection to China predictions is based on environmental grounds, namely water provision in relation to total population and food insecurity, which are detailed via a number of reads posted on CMP.


    Josh, read them, cogitate and post a reply.


  18. I really fail to see the big problem with declining birth rates. China has a higher birth rates compared to other Asian countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Signapore. If there are any problems with declining birth rate, they will be hit harder than China. Like lolz says, China can simply increase the retirement age and many of the other asian countries managed to compensate despite its aging population.


  19. The article and the figures are based on the assumption that the current one-child policy will not change until 2100. So the article just meant to be a cautionary tale. There will probably be no more restriction on the number of children a family can have within 5 years.


  20. @KT – Coming from a country so scarce in water resources, maybe folks in Oz have a different outlook on this. For myself, I just figure that (at 255 people per square kilometre) the UK as a whole has a population density higher than 14 of the PRC’s 33 administrative units, and England has a population density higher than 21 of the PRC’s administrative units, yet we are hardly over crowded, or scarce on resources. Beijing and the north east are special cases though, obviously.

    If there is overcrowding in the cities, this is not due so much to the large population (although this is universally blamed for it) but caused by the “cities first” development strategy that has emphasized growth in the cities at the expense of growth in the countryside, causing a huge migration from one to the other. Really, China’s population has become a scape-goat for things that in reality are not directly connected to it.


  21. @Foarp – I’m not 100% sure on this, but my understanding that the UK, like much of Europe, relies on energy imports. Given that the need for energy will rise rapidly world wide, I’m not sure it’s inaccurate to say that China will run out of resources. Rather, the world will run out of resources when China can no longer import them.

    Anyway, my guess is that nothing will change until the demographic crunch begins to be felt, and by then, it’ll obviously be too late. I’m surprised nobody here has mentioned the vested interests that have prevented any change in the family planning policy. China has a created a huge bureaucracy that benefits from the fines for having children, like a giant parasite that grows out of the destruction of its host.

    Also to blame is perhaps the idiocy of the general public that has been brainwashed into thinking that only by decreasing the number people will the Chinese get richer. To be honest, if there were a more resistant populace, the policy could be scrapped, but so far there isn’t much of a fight by the people to protect their right to have children. I’m ready to hit someone if I hear from another Chinese person complaining that “China has too many people.” But this is the impression of not just Chinese people, but everyone around the world. 1.3 billion people sounds like a hugely overpopulated country, no matter how low the population density is.

    It’ll be so ironic if in the end, China ends up having to import immigrants from South Asia or Africa. It’d be like decreasing its own population to make room for foreigners.

    The Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, the Three Gorges Dam, and now this. China is such a master of man-made totalitarian disasters.


  22. @Rui – Actually, due to North Sea oil and gas, the UK has been a net exporter of fossil fuel for much of the last 30-40 years, although before that we relied on imports from the Middle East (the UK was hit hard by the 1973 energy crisis) and we may soon be again since North Sea oil is in decline. My hope is that greater concentration on nuclear and renewables (and, just maybe, the re-opening of some of the UK’s coal pits closed as unprofitable during the 80’s) may avoid excessive reliance on the Middle East and Russia.

    What is true is that we are reliant on foreign manufactured goods, and that the resources that go into those goods. This reliance, though, is unavoidable at the present time. Perhaps in a future in which everything is cheaply manufactured via rapid prototyping/3D-printing, this will no longer be the case – but that is a very long way off.

    I thoroughly agree that the size of the population is blamed for things which actually have nothing to do with it. Take my colleagues at Foxconn. Overcrowded trains? “Caused by China’s large population”. Tough competition in exams? “China has a large population”. Massive traffic jams at the Meilin checkpoint going from Longhua into Shenzhen? “China’s population is too large”.

    The fact that the proper solutions to these problems are respectively: more trains, more university places, and getting rid of the ridiculously outdated Shenzhen checkpoint system doesn’t seem to register. In fact the checkpoints around Shenzhen are a perfect example of something similar to what is driving the OCP, since they were introduced and rationalised during the late 70’s/early 80’s and now will never disappear since a self-sustaining bureaucracy has grown up around them. I understand that they have even put checkpoints on the subway between Guannei and Guanwai.


  23. Luckily, for china, as usual statistics tend to under-report.

    In rurual areas there are many children that are called “black” children. Born without licence, the parents unable to bribe officials to let the children be “legalised”.

    I suspect if the government declared an amnsty for “black children” and included them in the census things would look much better…


  24. @FOARP You are still haunted by that checkpoint, whereas I dream of litres of crystal clear rainwater. In fact, I have 44,000 litres on hand.


  25. @KT – Actually, you’re damned right that it does. Those check points have no justification whatsoever, yet they’re still there -why? Because, rather than have any input from the ordinary people whatsoever, which would let them know up-front that they were 100% a waste of time, the government’s only source of information is the people who run the checkpoints and therefore have an interest in their continued existence.


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