Demographic Dividend and Prospects for Economic Development in China


United Nations Expert Group Meeting on Social and Economic Implications of Changing Population Age Structures


by Feng Wang, University of California, Irvine, and Andrew Mason, University of Hawaii and the East West Center, 


During the last 25 years, China has undergone demographic as well as economic changes of historic proportions. Demographically, China has transformed itself from a "demographic transitional" society, where reductions in mortality led to rapid population growth and subsequent reductions in fertility led to a slower population growth, to a "post-transitional" society, where life expectancy has reached new heights, fertility has declined to below-replacement level, and rapid population ageing is on the horizon. In the not-too-distant future—in a matter of a few decades—China’s population will start to shrink, an unprecedented demographic turn in Chinese history in the absence of major wars, epidemics or famines. In this process, China will also lose its position as the most populous country in the world.


Economically, China has completed its transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to a market based economy. In moving from an economy under socialism that was closed to the outside world and plagued by low efficiency and stagnation, China has become, in the last two decades¸ one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in the world. In less than twenty years' time, between 1982 and 2000, real GDP per capita for the Chinese population, adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), rose more than four-fold – a record unmatched elsewhere in the world.


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