Peak demographics from the EIU has some fascinating insight into the nature of the demographic changes in China that sit underneath the extraordinary prediction that the country’s working age population is set to peak this year (2013).
This sounds like a worrying prediction when we look at Japan, for example. However, underneath the words of the prediction, the urban working-age population will continue to grow through 2029 as the rural population shrinks. I had no idea that China’s “countryside is overpopulated: there are too many farmers working too little land.” and
“It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many more workers the agricultural sector can afford to lose before a large impact on farm output is felt. However, most economists agree that another 100m or so is achievable. Coupled with the fact that the primary sector only accounts for 10% of GDP, it becomes clear that, when it comes to maintaining economic growth, the urban workforce is really the only one that matters.”
The other factor that is often cited is a lack of young workers,
Yet the number of Chinese aged 16–24 increased from 196m to 210m between 2000 and 2010. The rise in urban areas is even greater. Where, then, did all the young workers go? The answer is simple: they went to school.
So there could be an issue of there being too many better-educated workers for the jobs available, but there won’t be too few of them for many, many years to come.
China may well need to move to, e.g., a two-child policy to continue its demographic growth, but not for many years yet.