In nearly every country today, the number of people aged 60 and over is rising faster than any other age group, a phenomenon that is being attributed to rising life expectancy and declining fertility rates, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In a nutshell, our global population is getting older.
With a population of more than 1.4 billion, China is experiencing a substantial rise in the number of elderly people, aged 60 and over. This demographic accounted for 17.3 percent of the Chinese population, or about 241 million people, at the end of 2017, according to data published on the Ministry of Civil Affairs website earlier this month. In layman's terms: China is a world leader in old folks.
That number is expected to rise to 487 million, or about 35 percent of the Chinese population, in 2050. According to an infographic published by the WHO, one in five people in the year 2050 will be 60 years old or older, while in China it will be one in three.
You might think this is one of the inevitable consequences of China’s 30-year one-child policy, but Zhang Chewei, director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics in Beijing, begs to differ.
“Many developed countries don’t have a birth-control policy, but are facing the problems of an aging society nonetheless, with negative growth in population. The overall trend cannot be changed, population aging is irreversible,” said Zhang in an interview with China Newsweek.
An aging society, by the United Nation’s definition, is one where people age 65 and older make up 10 percent of its population. In China, this demographic makes up 11.4 percent. To evolve into an aging society, France, Sweden and the United States took 115, 85 and 69 years respectively. China reached the same status in just 18 years, according to a WHO report on China’s population of elderly people.
Since 2000, the fertility rate in China has been low at an average 1.5-1.6, according to Zhang. A birth rate of 1.7 (courtesy of the new two-child policy) and life expectancy of 76 years were recorded in 2016. Births in the first half of 2018, however, were at least 15 percent fewer than the same period of 2017.
Needless to say, China could benefit from the fountain of youth.
[Cover image via China Daily]