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Causes of the Population Decline in China


China has turned into one of the largest economies after the economic reform in December 1978. According to Jiang (2015), China has shifted from a centrally-planned economy to a more market-based economy after the market has been reformed, and China begins to experience rapid economic and social development after the 1970s. As a result, China has currently become the world’s second-largest economy and recorded at least 6% of internal GDP growth annually (The world bank, 2013). However, there is an inevitable challenge that China must face, and it may impede China to enhance prosperity in the future, and that is the population decline. In accordance with the world bank, the fertility rate in China has only got 1.6 in 2019, which reveals that China cannot achieve the replacement level fertility. Consequently, China has an insufficient number of the new generation to replace the older generation, and it will lead to a series of negative consequences and effects in the future. Therefore, the main purpose of this essay is to investigate the reason behind the population decline issue, thus discover several feasible outcomes and option to maintain the population growth in China.

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Reasons of population decline in China

China maintained its high fertility rate in the 1960s, which the total fertility rate was 6 children per woman. It is mainly due to the former Chinese president Mao Zedong’s dogma. He indicated that more population could rise China’s military, economic, and political power (Dirlik, 2012). However, the total fertility rate in China become shrinking since the 1980s, and it is discovered that there are three main factors contribute to this circumstance. First of all, the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping set up a china’s one-child rule to restrict the citizen especially living in urban to have more than one baby (Marvalova, 2018). If the families observed the one-child rule, they will gain rewards such as higher wages, better schooling, and employment. Conversely, the families need to pay for numerous fines, have their wage cut and terminate their employment if they violated the one-child rule. As a result, the majority of the families chosen to obey the one-child policy rule, and the total fertility rate decreased abruptly from 5.8 to 2.9 in the 1980s.

Secondly, people getting richer after the economic reform in 1978. Since China become more market-based economy, there are more opportunities for China to export its product toward the world. Consequently, China has transformed into the largest exporter in the world and the biggest producer of aluminium and steel (Yan, 2012). As a result, per capita income in China reached $8830 US dollar in 2016, which is eightfold from 2001 (Stratford & Cowling, 2016). Additionally, the Chinese government has placed more fund on schooling. According to OECD (2016), the Chinese government has gradually increased the appropriation for education from 5000 billion Yuan in 2005 to 25000 billion Yuan in 2014, and more than 95% of Chinese resident can read and write currently. Consequently, people have already developed a sense of family planning due to the enhanced income and education level, thus they recognize that it will not be beneficial if their families have more than one children.

Thirdly, women have more opportunities to study and work after the 1970s. The college began to increase the enrolment and opened new courses that is considered female-friendly, and it offers more school activities and internship opportunities for female students (Warnecke, et al., 2012). Consequently, the ratio of female and male attend university have already balanced and begin to skew toward girls. Also, even though the female labor force participation rate is declining in China, it still recorded 73% in 2010, which is higher than the male participate force in some developed countries (Xingxuan, 2017). Based on that evidence, women begin to develop a sense of contraception, and since there is plenty of cheap contraception product available in society, women will have to little chance to get pregnant accidentally.

The possible outcome and solution from the Chinese government

In order to solve the population decline issue, the Chinese government have established several strategies to encourage people to have their second birth. First of all, the Chinese government have proposed a two-child policy in 2015. In order to address the ageing issue in China, people allow to have their second children in the family, without any penalties (Tao-Xiong & Jun, 2017). The Chinese government have received a brilliant result within two years. Compare with 2016, extra 1.62 million of babies was born during 2017. However, the demographic experts still predict that the two-child policy will only have a minor impact on the fertility rate in China. It is because the Chinese couples has been deeply sterilized and the social norm of having only one child has been deeply embedded in their mind-set.

Secondly, different province in China have indicated a plenty of supplement policies to encourage citizens to have another birth. For instance, in Liaoning province, the province government have promised to improve the policies by cutting the taxes, enhancing the social security and providing better education and cheaper housing for those with second children (Wang, 2018). In addition, In Xianning city, they have a similar policy with Liaoning. However, an extra rule has been added in their province. The province government encourages the government agencies and institutions to extend the maternity leave for women with 2 or more children to 6 months, and paternity leave to 1 month.

Thirdly, the Chinese government have begun to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 in the future. Since the two-child policy takes time to implement, raising the retirement age could be a successful short-term solution to maintain the sufficient number of labor in the labor market (Chen & Turner, 2015).

Personal suggestion of the option

Although the policies established by the Chinese government sounds reasonable to solve the population decline issue in China. However, it can be seen that the policies only have a short-term effect. Therefore, I will propose some long-term solutions that can solve the issues from the root.

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Firstly. The sex imbalance problem could be fixed through changing negative perceptions to girls and even persuade people to born girls to fill the future void. This has already achieved in the foreign cities to decrease the negative value attached to a girl, such as India and some countries in Africa (Abdullah, et al., 2008). Also, the traditional perception of boys is that they are the one who could take care for their family when they get old. However, since girls are having more job opportunities, they are able to do that as well. So, in order to make the two-child policy work, the government should work hard in changing citizen’s traditional perception.

Secondly, instead of increasing the population size, the government should also care about that quality of the population. According to the demographic dividend, it has included the population quantity, population structure, quality of labour force and the willingness to work (Bloom, et al., 2003). Therefore, if the Chinese government would like to maintain its prosperity, they should not only be focusing on the population quantity but also optimizing the population structure, enhancing the quality of labour force and stimulating their willingness to work.

Thirdly, the Chinese government should grasp the opportunity from the Belt and Road initiative. Since it is a way that can enhance the connection between the adjacent countries, and make trades from them (Cai, 2017). The government can also adopt this chance to importing global talent, including both high-tech workforce and immigrant workers, by providing subsidizes and welfare, which is also a great solution to solve the population decline issue when the two-child policy is still adjusting.


In conclusion, the population decline in China could possibly lead to a series of negative consequences toward future China. Although the Chinese government has set up some policies in order to mitigate the impact from population decline and encourage their citizen to have birth again, they do not have a deep investigation on the cause of population decline. Therefore, if the government could follow the suggestion that created by myself, the two-child policy would work more effectively in the future. Consequently, the Chinese government should be patient on maintaining the population growth in China, as it is not an action that can be resolved in a short period.


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  • Wang, K., 2018. Two influence of the two-child policy on urbanizartion in China, London: ResearchGate.
  • Warnecke, T., Hernandez, L. & Nunn, N., 2012. Female entrepreneurship in China: Opporunity or necessity-based?, Florida: Rollins college.
  • Xingxuan, X., 2017. Reasons for china’s changing female labor force participation rate, Beijing: School of North China electric power university.
  • Yan, X., 2012. ‘To get rich is not only glorious’: economic reform and the new entrepreneurial party secretaries, Cambridge: Cambridge University .

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