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China’s aging population is a bigger challenge than its ‘one-child’ policy, economists say

  • China's decades-old one-child policy drew renewed attention late last month after authorities gave mixed signals on whether they were closer to repealing limits on how many children people can have.
  • "In general I don't think the relaxing of the birth policy could have much of an economic impact because the slow growth in population hasn't been because of policy restriction, not for the last 20 years," said Dan Wang, Shanghai-based chief economist at Hang Seng China.
  • Instead, economists expect more investment in factory automation and development of retirement and health care-related industries.

In this article

A medical worker takes care of a newborn baby lying inside an incubator at Jingzhou Maternity & Child Healthcare Hospital on the eve of Chinese New Year, the Year of the Ox, on Feb. 11, 2021 in Jingzhou, Hubei Province of China.Huang Zhigang | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — China's decades-old one-child policy gained renewed attention in the last few weeks, after authorities gave mixed signals on whether they were closer to abolishing limits on how many children people can have.

Authorities have rolled back the controversial one-child policy in recent years to allow people to have two children. But economists say other changes are needed for boosting growth as births fall and China's population rapidly ages.

"There are two ways to address this. One way is to relax the birth control, something (that) will help on the margin, but even if they fully relax the control (it's) probably difficult to reverse the trend," said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management.

"The other way to deal with it, from an economic policy perspective, is to make industry more dependent on other sectors," he said.

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