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8, 1997. Introduction Good morning! It's a pleasure to be here from half way around the world and I th ank you for the opportunity to address you this morning. My talk is about demographic change in China and is divided into three parts. Fi rst, what has happened over the past 50 years. Second, what will happen over the next 50 years. Third, what these demographic changes mean for China and the res t of the world. The Past 50 Years Fifty years ago China had the demographic characteristics typical of a pre-moder n society: high mortality, high fertility and young age distribution. Mortality fell rapidly after 1949, but fertility remained high for two decades, with women having an average of about six children per woman at the end of repro duction. In consequence, the country experienced rapid population growth and an even younger age distribution. Then in 1970 the government initiated an anti-natalist policy, the “later-longer-f ewer” policy. In the following decade, fertility in China declined more rapidly th an it ever has in a major country. Here's a picture of this fertility decline. PDF shows a time series of total fertility rates, or TFRs. This is the standard meas ure of fertility used by demographers throughout the world. It projects current rates of childbearing into the future and tells us the average number of childre n women will have if current behavior continues into the future. The plot gives a convenient indication of magnitudes and timing. In 1970 the TFR was about six children per woman. By 1977 it had declined to about 2.6 children per woman. This is an extraordinarily rapid decline. Fertility declines in othe r countries have taken several decades to half a century or more to do what Chin a did in less than a decade. There is however one problem with this picture, and a very serious problem. In 1 979, flushed with the success of their earlier anti-natalist policy, China intro duced a new policy, the “one-child family policy,” that encouraged every family in C hina to have only one child. Enormous resources of all kinds were allocated to i mplementing this policy. In the picture you are looking at, however, fertility d ecline stops just before the policy was introduced and hardly declines at all su bsequently. To judge from this picture—and it is, please remember, the standard wa y to represent fertility decline—the one-child family policy was a total failure. Did the policy fail, or is there something wrong with this picture? The answer, it turns out, is that there is something wrong with the picture. The familiar to tal fertility rate of demography textbooks does a very bad job of representing d emographic and social reality in this case. Here's another picture showing a different rate that does a better job. PDF It is a statistic I invented specifically to study the impact of China's one-chi ld family policy. The general idea and metric, average children per woman, are t he same, but this measure controls for “parity” (how many children a woman has had a t any given time) and birth order, which the TFR does not. The TFR series shown before is shadowed here for comparison. The picture is dramatically different. The rate of decline is slightly lower, th e decline continues all the way through to 1984, and bottoms out at just over tw o children per woman. The fertility measure you see here is based on statistics called “parity progressi on ratios,” which are proportions of women having a given number of children who a dvance to another child. The parity progression ratios provide very concrete evi dence of the demographic impact of the one child family policy.
Here they are. PDF The line at the top shows the proportion of married women who have at least one child. This is high and constant throughout the period. There was no decline in motherhood during China's fertility decline. The four lower series in the picture show the parity progression ratios for high er order transitions, 2nd to 3rd birth, 3rd to 4th birth, and so on. The decline s are large and cover the whole period shown. By far the most interesting and important series is for progression from 1st to 2nd birth. Before the one child policy in 1979, nearly all women had a second ch ild. Within five years, however, the policy had brought the percentage of women going on to a second child down to just over 60 percent. There is an important moral to this story of recent demographic trends in China: the necessity of presenting a reasonably full statistical picture when addressi ng complex social questions. The first TFR series we looked at suggested that th e one-child family policy failed. The second TFR series suggested that the polic y had a substantial demographic impact. The parity progression ratios indicated the impact very specifically, but they also showed that the policy did not elimi nate all second births, and indeed that significant proportions of women continu ed to have three or more children. If we were allowed to pick and choose among t hese statistics, without presenting the whole picture, we could argue equally we ll that the policy failed or that it was a success. The Next 50 Years Now let's turn to the next 50 years. “To predict is difficult,” Einstein is supposed to have said, “especially the future.” We cannot predict the demographic future in China with absolute certainty. We can however say a surprising large number of u seful things with a surprising degree of assurance. The place to begin is the age distribution. Here is the age distribution of the whole country from the 1990 census. PDF Each point shows the number of persons (vertical axis) at a given single year of age (horizontal axis). This age distribution tells a lot bout the future if we know how to read it. Her e's how to read it. Imagine how this picture will change in one year's time. Eac h point will move to the right one year, because we all get one year older every year. Norman Ryder once called this “the most important fact in demography.” The po int for age zero reflects the number of births to the population during the year . Some of us do die, however, and because of this each point moves not only to the right, but also down. The downward movement is very slight at younger ages, whe n mortality risks are low, and higher at older ages, when risks are high. Given current mortality levels in China, there isn't much downward movement until arou nd retirement age. This takes a bit of hard thinking if its the first time you've seen it, but the effort is worthwhile, for we immediately get an important conclusion about China 's future. The typical number persons under age 35 is 22-23 million. Over the ne xt 35 years, all of these persons will get 35 years older, i.e., will be aged 35 -69, and few of them will die. Now look at the numbers of persons aged 35-69 in 1990. The typical numbers here are much smaller. Conclusion? There will be a dra matic increase in the number of persons aged 35+ in coming decades. Doing the demographic arithmetic, we calculate a growth of 400 million persons a ged 35 and over over the next 40 years, or about 100 million per decades. This i s a lot of people. In purely people-counting terms, it's more than another Europ e. Moreover, this growth of population is about as close to certain as we ever get in such matters because the people in question have already been born. The only thing that could prevent this population increase would be catastrophically high mortality; hundreds of millions of excess deaths in coming decades.
Conclusion 1 400 million increase in population 35+ over next 40 years What about total population growth in coming decades? This is less certain becau se it depends on future fertility levels, but a plausible scenario is that numbe rs of births entering the population in future decades will be similar to number s in past decades. If this is the case, the number of persons under age 35 won't change much, and total population growth will be the same as growth of the popu lation over age 35, about 400 million over the next 40 years. Conclusion 2 400 million total increase over the next 40 years. We can say more about these 400 million new Chinese. Because the one-child famil y policy was quite fully implemented in China's cities, the urban TFR is about o ne child per woman, and has been at this level since the mid-1980s. The growth p attern in the cities is thus very different from that in the country as a whole. We can see the impact by looking at the age distribution of China's cities. Here it is in Figure 5 PDF The number of persons under age 20 is about two thirds the number aged 20-39. We can see from the shape of the age distribution that there will be a large incre ase of older persons in the cities, as in the county as a whole. In the cities, however, this increase will be approximately canceled out by declines in the num ber of younger persons. With respect to natural increase (migration is another m atter), cities won't grow much at all over the next 40 years. From which we conc lude that the 400 million new persons will be born into what are, now, at least, rural areas. Conclusion 3 The 400 million increase will be concentrated in rural areas We can say more about where these 400 million new Chinese will be by looking at a map of population densities, shown here Figure 6: China Population Density PDF This isn't a cartographically rigorous display, but it is a useful picture and w ill serve our purposes here. The essential conclusion is immediate. There is an enormous concentration of Chinese population to the right in the picture. This i s the area in which traditional Chinese agriculture can be practiced. The (almos t) empty spaces to the north and west cannot support this agriculture and are sp arsely settled. Most of the future population increase will be where the population is concentra ted already. The sparsely settled areas to the north and west may experience ver y large increases relative to their own (very small) population, but they simply can't absorb the very large numbers of persons that will come on the scene in f uture decades. Conclusion 4 The increase will be concentrated in agrarian China The final conclusion is important, but a bit more complex. To explain it, we 'zo om in' on agrarian China and look closely at the density patterns. Here's the pi cture Figure 7: China Population Density PDF From the work of G. William Skinner we know that agrarian China can be divided i nto nine “macroregions.” These correspond fairly closely to large scale drainage bas ins. Each macroregion displays a “core-periphery” structure, with a dense inner core and surrounding, roughly concentric rings, with density declining as we move fr om inner core to the outermost periphery. Most of the macroregions can be seen fairly clearly (one does have to look close ly) on the density map. The three macroregions of the Yangze River, for example, are here (Upper Yangze), here (Middle Yangze) and here (lower Yangze). The dens est (darkest) areas are the core, with lightening indicating movement toward the periphery. The inner cores of macroregions are already so dense that they will be strained by additional population. The far peripheral regions are topographically unsuite
d to dense populations and are unlikely to to show much growth overall. By elimi nation, then, we expect most future population increase to occur in the intermed iate ranges of the core-periphery structure of each macroregion. So. We actually know quite about about the shape of China's demographic future. We can't predict with certainty and precision, but neither do we face a blank wa ll of uncertainty. We can know more than enough about the demographic future to worry about its implications. Which is what we will do in the third and last par t of the presentation. China in World Perspective Now let's turn to Part 3, China in world perspective. A world density plot is a useful starting point. Here it is Figure 8: World Population Density, 1995 Bigger GIF 37k | PDF | Source: The Global Demography Project What is instantly apparent is how China and India-Pakistan-Bangladesh dominate t he world population map. This is true today, and since the current demographic s ituation in these countries pretty much guarantees that they will add roughly a billion persons to world population over the next half century or so, it will be even more true in the future. What does this mean for them? What does it mean for us? How these countries will absorb the additional population they are nearly certain to get and still prosp er? Or will things go terribly wrong? Let's bring the focus back to China. Most of the additional population will be b orn into (what are now) rural areas in which most of the labor force is engaged in agriculture. If there is anything we can be reasonably sure of, it is that th ese areas are already overpopulated. We can't be precise, but in this perspectiv e we can manage without precision. China's agricultural productivity would proba bly improve by the removal of a few hundred million persons from the agricultura l labor force. And this is under current conditions. In every developed country agricultural workers as a percentage of the labor force drops with development f rom way over half to under ten percent. We can expect a similar decline in deman d for China. So the population growth is not needed in, and could not easily (or at all) be a ccommodated in agriculture. By elimination, they need to be absorbed into a mode rn economy. What China needs over the next half century is the development of a modern economy on the scale of the US or Europe to accommodate future population growth. Some elements of the “Asian Economic Miracle” are in place for China. One key aspect , however, is not: export-led growth. Exports can't play the same role in China that they have in Taiwan, Korea, or even Japan, because China is so big. How will China cope? One possibility is that “export-led growth” will develop intern ally; that the poorer parts of the country will develop by “exporting” to the more d eveloped parts of the country. This could have important implications for trade with China. Some opportunities will lie in the expanding consumer market, but th is will remain much smaller than the whole country. Other opportunities may lie in facilitating development of the less developed parts of the country by helpin g them “export” to the more developed parts of the country. Conclusion We've covered a lot of ground in a short time. China's fertility decline and the role of it's anti-natalist policies; some key aspects of the demographic future in China; and the significance of these demographic changes for China and the r est of the world. This is the end of my presentation. Obviously much has been le ft unsaid, but I believe we have some time for questions. Thank you for your att ention. Griffith Feeney is a Senior Fellow at the East-West Center Program on Population , Honolulu, Hawaii. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. World Wide Web: http://www.gfeeney.com or http://www2.hawaii.edu/~gfeeney or http://166.12 2.163.154/gfeeney/
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