The CCP’s response to this demographic change will be key to maintaining social cohesion as economic growth slows.
While China’s fertility rate has been steadily declining since the early 1990s, according to the latest data released by the Chinese Government in early 2023, for the first time in six decades deaths in the previous year outnumbered births. Based on these trends by 2040, around a quarter of the Chinese population will be aged 65 or over. The shift is likely to have massive symbolic and substantive impacts on China’s economy, society and politics.
Professor of sociology at the University of California Feng Wang sees this as a wake-up call to move the country’s growth model away from the labour-intensive manufacturing industry and the service industry. The ageing population is also likely to reshape society as many ageing parents with only one child –a result of the one-child policy in effect to 2016 – will likely rely on that one child for support.
Due to the speed of demographic and economic change in China, the government has struggled to keep pace in developing social safety nets, including adequate health care and pensions. Wang said the key lies in the Chinese government’s policy responses to the challenge in fixing the country’s social support system and preventing economic decline.