China's fertility rate is below replacement rate. But now economists say the phenomenon of fewer births is turning into a negative. The AP, Reuters and New York Times carry stories of Wang Feng, Director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy. He says that China already had 14 percent fewer people in their 20s compared with a decade ago. In the next 20 years, he said, their numbers will dwindle an additional 17 percent, while the share of China’s population that is 65 and older is projected to double to 16 percent. Wang said the median age of the Chinese population is now 34 years old. He estimates that by 2050, half the population will be 50 or older, assuming the fertility rate is 1.6. By 2050, nearly one in four Chinese will be elderly, according to United Nations projections. The median age of Chinese will be higher than that of Americans by 2040.
The proposals under consideration are increasing productivity, increasing the retirement age, and addressing gender imbalances. But these will not be sufficient to maintain growth at current rates or stave off a decline in the labor force. At some stage, China will need to import migrant workers.