Just remember 4-2-1-whenever you think of Chinese demographics.
4 refers to 2 grandmas and 2 grandpas, 2 is their adult children and 1 is the next generation.
The social fabric of China is shifting. In rural areas, the elderly population is growing as the young leave their parents and move to the cities. For those in urban areas, families are smaller, many with one child. With families separated, their traditional caring network is uprooted.
What does all of this mean? A family centered culture will have fewer children with siblings. In the home, a nation with an inadequate old age pension system will have fewer adult children to care for the aged. Meanwhile, at work, there will be relatively fewer people in the labor force supporting a larger old age cohort.
Our Bottom Line: China is one of many nations that will have to cope with the economic implications of an aging population. As of 2011, neither China nor the U.S. was among the world’s 10 “oldest” countries with relatively large populations of people age 60+. At the top of the list is Japan (31%) and then Italy (27%) and Germany (26%). Greece is #7 (25%), and Portugal #8 (24%).
However, China is among a list of countries whose over 60 population will increase by the greatest percent. Between 2011 and 2050, Harvard researchers say that China’s aging population will rise 21% and represent 34% of their population by 2050.
And that returns us to 4-2-1.
I especially recommend this new World Bank report for up-to-date information on China’s aging population. Also, my facts about Chinese demographics came from a Working Paper from Harvard, The Economist, here, the New England Journal of Medicine, here, and the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), here.