Demography and destiny

Pop­u­la­tion trends in the Asian and Eurasian con­ti­nents are sum­ma­rized in this “fas­ci­nat­ing essay(link to Pol­i­cy Review article)”: by Nicholas Eber­stadt of the Amer­i­can Entr­erprise Insti­tute. # The 20th cen­tu­ry pop­u­la­tion explo­sion is all but over in East Asia—including China—and is fad­ing quick­ly in South East and even South Asia.
# Dra­mat­ic shifts are tak­ing place in the rel­a­tive sizes of nation­al pop­u­la­tions. The Russ­ian pop­u­la­tion has been shrink­ing for a decade while Pakistan’s con­tin­ued to grow. By 2025 Pakistan’s pop­u­la­tion may be twice the size of Russia’s (250 mil­lion ver­sus 124 mil­lion).
# By 2025, the medi­an age of Chi­nese will be high­er than that of US cit­i­zens (at around 39 years). No coun­try has record­ed a faster rate of pop­u­la­tion aging except Japan: but where Japan became rich before it became old but Chi­na will have to do it the oth­er way around, if it can. The chal­lenge is huge: by 2025 there will be 300 mil­lion Chi­nese aged over 60. This cohort of the pop­u­la­tion was also large­ly respon­si­ble for the rapid drop into sub-replace­ment fer­til­i­ty pat­terns in Chi­na. Con­se­quent­ly, there will be “some­thing approach­ing” a one-to-one ratio between Chi­nese pen­sion­ers and work­ers after 2025. As many as one in four elder­ly Chi­nese may have no child to sup­port them in their old age
# A prospec­tive Chi­nese bride short­age seems bound to cre­ate a large pop­u­la­tion of unmar­riage­able males with accom­pa­ny­ing social dis­rup­tion (and, inevitably, some new mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ties). The male-female birth ratio has con­tin­ued to climb from unex­cep­tion­able lev­els of 104 to 105 (per hun­dred female babies at 1 year) in 1964 to near­ly 116 in 1995 and 118 in 2000. Nei­ther the decline in fer­til­i­ty nor the increas­ing wealth of the pop­u­la­tion, nor even the expe­ri­ences of the teenagers from the late eight­ies has slowed the rapid appar­ent decline in the sur­vival of the num­ber of female chil­dren (or at least their appear­ance in the sta­tis­tics). Com­bined with the decline in fer­til­i­ty, the size of the ‘nup­tial cohort’ of Chi­nese women in their 20s in 2025 will be only three-quar­ters of its size in 2010.
# Rus­sia faces a unique cri­sis of male mor­tal­i­ty. For Russ­ian men in every age group­ing between 20 and 64 years, death rates in 2001 were at least 40 per­cent high­er than they had been thir­ty years ear­li­er. UNDP esti­mates that a Russ­ian male’s life expectan­cy is low­er than that of males in devel­op­ing coun­tries.
# On plau­si­ble assump­tions, the USA is like­ly to remain the world’s third most pop­u­lous coun­try in 2025 with an increase of 26 per­cent between 2000 and 2025: larg­er than that of any indus­tri­al­ized coun­try and with a pop­u­la­tion growth rate high­er than that of East Asia, Chi­na includ­ed. The US pop­u­la­tion will also be more youth­ful, and aging more slow­ly, than those pop­ul­tions on the oth­er side of the Pacif­ic in East Asia.

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