Population outflow affects NE China's economic recovery

By Li Shen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 16, 2015
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According to a survey on the new second-child policy conducted by Heilongjiang provincial family planning department, 69.9 percent of the 100,240 surveyed who are in their twenties and thirties, are not willing to have a second child.

Even in the floating population in Heilongjiang Province, people who want to have a second child only account for 1.8 percent.


Northeast China is confronting enormous challenges from the aging population. [Photo: China.org.cn]

Aging population

The region is also confronting enormous challenges from the aging population. By the end of 2012, there were over 5.7 million people aged 60 years and above in Heilongjiang Province, accounting for 14.8 percent of the total population; there were 3.4 million aged 65 and over, 8.8 percent of total population. From 1995 to 2012, the share of the above two groups has increased twofold. It is estimated that the population aging level in Heilongjiang will reach 19 percent by 2020 and be over 33 percent by 2045.

People in Heilongjiang will get old before they get rich, said Luo Dandan, a researcher with the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. In 2012, the average per capita disposable income in Heilongjiang was 17,760 yuan (roughly US$2,859), last but two among the 31 provinces. In 2013, the GDP growth in Heilongjiang was third from the last. And in the first quarter of 2014, its GDP growth dropped to last position.

However, in the developed Guangdong Province which has the largest GDP nationwide in 2014, the population aging level is much lower than that in Heilongjiang. By the end of 2012, people aged 65 years and over only accounted for 7 percent of the total population in Guangdong, a level reached in Heilongjiang in 10 years ago.

"The workforce aged from 20 to 64 is the engine of economic growth. Japan and European countries had economic crisis just before their labor growth reached the inflection point. Northeast China's economic growth slowed down after its population growth reached the point in 2013," said Yi Fuxian. The pool of labor in northeast China is also in acute shortage as the share of children aged 0 to 14 in the region is only 11.8 percent, far below the national average rate of 16.6 percent. The economic outlook in northeast China is not optimistic at all.

Alarm for the whole country

According to Yi Fuxian, Chinese population's age structure had reached an unstable spindle shape in 2010, in which the labor force took too much of the percentage. Now the structure is going to become a shaky inverted triangle which will result in an acute shortage of labor, severe population aging and a sluggish economy. Northeast China is a convincing sample of this process. "It is hard to stop depopulation in China even though the family control policy has been abolished," said Yi.

He emphasized that the drop in the national birth rate would come 10 years later than the fall in northeast China. He predicts that the population crisis will spread from the northeast to the northern area, then to the middle, the northwest and finally to the southwest. The population structure suggests that the Chinese economy may be in recession in the future in the northeast and booming in the southwest.

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