Although we still see a positive growth of total population in China, the population growth rate has been largely slowed down and approaches to the critical turning point during the past ten years. According to the projections of UN and other authority organizations, the Chinese population may start to decline (or go negative growth as we call) before 2030, but as suggested by today’s release, the moment may come sooner than the early expectation.
We observed a dramatic decline of birth numbers in recent years, but the decisive moment occurred as early as 30 years ago. If we use the metaphor that the population growth process is like a running car, we already pressed the brake in 1990s when every woman had less than 2 children by average, but the car continued to slide for a while before it completely stops. Now we are approaching the stop point.
In short, the times of negative population growth is coming soon and the underlying mechanism is the long-term low fertility rate. There are varying reasons for the low fertility desire. As the social and economic development go on, the attitude towards children has changed and the children’s economic utility is declining. On the other hand, young couples encounter big constraints that prevent them from having children, such as the high competition pressure, elevated housing price, and the heavy burden of child rearing.
I have to say, in the past ten years, the government has made great efforts to reduce the sex ratio at birth, and the society also has a significant progress in gender equity. We are seeing a good changing trend, but the normal sex ratio at birth is between 106 and 107. That means, there is still way to go. I think overall we are on a good track.
There are several consequences of unbalanced sex ratio.First, it would ruin the gender structure of labor market and affect the economic vitality.Second, there would be a considerate number of left men who cannot find a wife. It would lead to social in-stability, such as sex crime, trafficking women and marriage. Finally, those large number of left men will further reduce fertility level and present a challenge that who can take care of them when they grow old. That is a big burden.
Well, the government should first create stable employment opportunities and provide affordable housing that increase the desire of young people of getting marry and having children. Second, the government should reduce the overall cost of child-rearing, including provide affordable daycare service for children under 3 years old, and relieve parents’ anxiety of children’s education. Third, we should pay attending to build a positive fertility culture and advance the gender equity. That is to say, we are not bringing women back to home, but help them balance work and family.
However, I have to say even we do everything right, it is very difficult promote the fertility rate in a short time and even there is a significant reverse of fertility rate, we cannot stop population ageing and negative population growth in the near future. We have to be patient and prepare a grand new institutional arrangement to adapt to the new population situation.