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Supply Chain News: The Demographic Wallop that will Soon Hit Chinese Families



The Disastrous Results of 35 Years of the One Child Policy Coming Home to Roost

March 20, 2023
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Demographic trends – specifically low birth rates, are huge and growing issue for almost all countries outside of Africa.


Supply Chain Digest Says...


Because of a high percentage of baby boys under the one-child policy and declining birth rates, a growing number of men in decades ahead will enter old age without spouses or children the traditional sources of support for the elderly.

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In the US, the birth rate has tumble to below replacement levels. In Japan, some demographers are predicting that without changes, the country incredibly will fall from 125 million citizens currently to just 50 million by the end of the century.

These flat or declining populations will put a lot of stress on economies and societies, with overall GDP growth very tied to the increase in population, and too few younger citizens in a county needing to support a rapidly growing elderly population.

The impact is going to be especially strong in China, say Nicholas Eberstadt and
Ashton Verdery, authors of a new report titled “China’s Revolution in Family Structure,” by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Eberstadt is a researcher at AEI, while Verdery is a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University.

Recently writing in the Wall Street Journal summarizing the report, the authors say that “China’s working-age manpower is in steep decline. The country is rapidly graying, and the largely dependent 65-plus population is soaring.”

They note that in January Beijing announced that the country’s total population declined in 2022 - a decade earlier than Western demographers had been forecasting as recently as 2019.

But it’s more than just a downward population trajectory. The reports says that coming too is a crisis of the Chinese family, which is says the foundation of Chinese society and civilization.

“The Chinese family is about to undergo a radical and historically unprecedented transition,” the authors state. “Extended kinship networks will atrophy nationwide, and the widespread experience of close blood relatives will disappear altogether for many.”

How is the happening? Not only is China facing powerful demographic trends seen in many other countries, China alone is now feeling the delayed but inexorable impact of its birth rate trends from the era of the notorious one-child policy (1980-2015).


(See More Below)




The authors say that right now, as a result of dramatic postwar improvements in health and mortality, Chinese men and women in their 40s have on average five times as many living cousins as they did in 1960.

They also posit that China’s “kin explosion” may have been an important and largely unobserved factor in China’s remarkable economic growth since Mao Zedong’s death in 1976.

But that state of affairs is soon going to change dramatically. Using statistical modeling, the authors find a looming implosion of these family networks, to the point that China’s generations to soon follow “will likely have fewer living relatives than ever before in Chinese history.”

They say that such “kin famines” will relentlessly unfold over the next 30 years, “starting now.”

As it intensifies, “the Chinese family - the most important institution protecting Chinese people against adversity in bad times and helping them seize opportunity in good times - will increasingly falter in both these crucial functions,” the report notes.

This trend plus the overall low birthrate “means the focus of the family in China will necessarily turn from the rearing of the young to the care of the old.”

Because of a high percentage of baby boys under the one-child policy and declining birth rates, a growing number of men in decades ahead will enter old age without spouses or children the traditional sources of support for the elderly.

“By our projections, by 2050, 18% of China’s men in their 60s will have no living descendants, twice the fraction today. Absent a massive expansion of Chinese social-welfare provisions over the next few decades, who will look after these unfortunates?” the report scaringly asks.

The report notes the economic impact of all this could be huge. For example, China’s coming family revolution could easily create a rise in personal risk aversion, which may in turn dampen mobility, including migration from rural to urban areas. That will slow overall economic growth.

And here’s an interesting one: China’s military activities could be curtailed due to resistance from the citizens because any conflict by China’s security forces involving significant loss of life would result lineage extinction for many Chinese families.

As the saying goes, “demography is destiny.” For China especially, that destiny does not augur well.


Any reaction to this analsis of China's demographic? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.








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