In a November entry, I presented a chart showing the prospective population growth of the India, China, Nigeria, and the United States through 2050, as projected in the U.S. Census Bureau International Database. According to the database, India's population was expected to pass China's by about 2032. However, new projections from the United Nations Population Division show this crossover occurring by 2030.
Projections for China's population continue to be revised downward rather quickly. But what should we make of these changes and the impact on the Chinese economy and society? Some have quipped that China will become old before it becomes rich. Indeed, the UN projects the 2050 median age of China to be 44.8 years, while in comparison it projects the media age of the U.S. to be 41.1 years and India to be 38.7 years.
By 2050, the UN expects China's population to be falling by 0.35% per annum, and we can assume that the potential workforce will be falling faster than that rate. Quite simply, this rate of population decline will feed directly into China's rate of economic growth. This might not be a concern for China now, when its economy is expanding at a furious clip. But we know that the kind of economic growth that China is experiencing now will not continue forever. Eventually, the 1% per annum (or whatever) drag on China's economy relative to nowadays will be very painful.