China’s demographic divisions are getting deeper

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IF DEMOGRAPHY is destiny, as Auguste Comte, a French philosopher, once said, then China has many destinies. As a result of 30 years of the now-relaxed one-child policy, the country has an exceptionally low overall fertility rate: 1.2 according to the census of 2010. (The fertility rate is the number of children an average woman can expect to bear during her lifetime. If it is less than 2.1 a population will shrink in the long run, unless immigration makes up for the dearth of babies.) What is almost never recognised, however, is that this is not a uniform problem. Just as China has richer and poorer regions, so it has areas of higher and lower fertility—or, to be more precise, of low and lower fertility.

As a whole, China has too few young adults relative to the size of older generations, meaning it will not have enough workers to support its pensioners (or children) properly in the future. But some areas will hit demographic trouble earlier and harder than others, with serious…Continue reading

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