Two Babies

Thirty-five years ago (nearly two generations ago), the People’s Republic of China government decreed that families in the PRC could have only one child. Ostensibly, this was to reduce population pressures on the country’s ability to feed itself. It’s also had, though, other consequences. One of them is this:

China has the world’s largest population at 1.37 billion, but its working-age population—those aged 15 to 64—is shrinking. The United Nations projects the number of Chinese people over the age of 65 will jump 85% to 243 million by 2030, up from 131 million this year.

That’s a doubling of the old-age population in just the 15 years it’ll take this year’s newly born babies to reach working age. Is the raise in the number of permitted babies per family to two sufficient to alleviate the problems brought on by the shrinking work force, with its reduced ability to produce goods and services, and food; or the problems brought on by a shrinking work force’s ability to pay for, in any way, the growing (relative to the working population as well as in absolute terms) population of elderly?

Many Chinese couples say the cost of having children is prohibitive, and some will opt to have only one child. A previous relaxation of China’s one-child policy did not lead to a significant increase in baby numbers.

“Many” is more than it sounds; it’s a significant fraction of today’s couples.

On top of that, though, most demographers say it takes 2.1 babies per woman (not just to women in marriages) just to maintain a population at a given level for developed nations. That minimum rate rises in less developed nations, as infant mortality rates rise. The PRC’s new limit of 2 babies per family (not all women) doesn’t reach the replacement rate.

Probably the raise in the limit on the number of permitted babies is insufficient.

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