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Animated Chart: China’s Aging Population (1950-2100)

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China’s Aging Population Problem

The one-child policy defined China’s demographic transition for over three decades.

But to combat an aging population and declining birthrates, the government scrapped the policy for a new two-child policy in 2016. Despite this massive change, China still faces a growing demographic crisis.

The above animated population pyramid from James Eagle looks at the distribution of China’s population by age group since 1950, with projections up to the year 2100.

How the One-Child Policy Created a Gender Imbalance

Until 2016, the Chinese government strictly enforced the one-child policy since 1979 with hefty fines for any breach of rules. According to the government, the policy reduced 400 million births over the years.

However, it also led to sex-selective abortions due to a deep-rooted cultural preference for boys. As a result, China’s gender balance tilted, with a sex ratio of 111 males to 100 females in the population aging from 0 to 4 years old in 2020.

Often termed “the missing women of China”, this shortage of women is expected to worsen over time. According to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects, China is projected to have around 244 million fewer women than men in 2050.

Additionally, the country faces another impending consequence of the one-child policy—a rapidly aging population.

Why China’s Population is Aging

In 2020, China’s fertility rate—the number of children a woman is expected to have over her lifetime—stood at 1.3.

Generally, fertility rates drop as economies develop. However, China’s fertility rate is now lower than that of the U.S. (1.64 in 2020) and on par with countries like Japan and Italy, both of which are facing aging populations. Consequently, fewer newborns are entering the population, while many in the workforce approach retirement.

Most Chinese workers retire by age 60. Here’s how China’s retirement-age population is expected to shape up by the year 2100:

Year60+ Population% of Total Population
198074,899,3857.5%
2000129,460,64810.0%
2021258,371,81017.9%
2050485,489,06634.6%
2070454,270,45836.1%
2100402,780,97237.8%

In 2021, people aged 60 and over made up nearly one-fifth of the Chinese population. As the country’s population begins declining around 2030, over 30% of all Chinese people are expected to be in this age group.

China’s aging population threatens long-term economic growth as its workforce shrinks and low fertility rates result in fewer newborns that would later enter the working-age population. Fewer working people means lower overall consumption, a higher burden on elderly care, and slowing economic growth.

So, how will China respond to the oncoming crisis?

The Three-child Policy

According to the 2020 national census, Chinese mothers gave birth to 12 million children in 2020—the lowest number of births since 1949.

In response to these results, the government passed a new law allowing each couple to have up to three children. Despite the change, the high cost of raising a child may deter couples from having a third child.

It remains to be seen how the three-child policy helps combat China’s demographic crisis and which other policies the government chooses to deploy.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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The World’s Largest Economies: Comparing the U.S. and China

How do the world’s two largest economies compare? We look at the economies of U.S. and China across GDP, stock markets, and FDI.

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Comparing the Economies of U.S. and China in 3 Key Metrics

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In this graphic, we provide insight into the world’s two biggest economies by comparing them across three key metrics: GDP, equity market valuation, and foreign direct investment (FDI).

Starting with GDP, we used 2024 estimates from the latest edition of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook (April 2024):

CountryGDP (% of total)GDP (USD billions)
🇺🇸 U.S.26.3$28,780
🇨🇳 China16.9$18,530
🌍 Rest of World56.8$62,220

Based on these figures, the United States and China combine for a massive 43.2% share of the global economy.

It’s also interesting to note that America’s share of global GDP has actually been increasing in recent years, from a low of 21.1% in 2011. This is partly due to its relatively strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Equity Market Valuation

The U.S. dominates when it comes to stock market valuation, accounting for 61% of the global total as of Feb. 29, 2024. These figures are based on each country’s share of the S&P Global BMI, which is a broad coverage index, including large, mid, and small-cap stocks from developed and emerging markets.

Country% of Global Market Cap
🇺🇸 U.S.61.0
🇨🇳 China2.8
🌍 Rest of World36.2

The massive disparity in equity market valuations between the U.S. and China is a result of differences in many factors, including market maturity, corporate governance, and international participation.

In terms of country rankings within the S&P Global BMI, China is the fourth largest (behind Japan and the UK).

Foreign Direct Investment

FDI is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country. This type of investment can be very beneficial because it can create jobs and enhance economic growth. The FDI figures in this graphic were sourced from fDi Intelligence, and represent cumulative FDI stock from 1990 to 2022.

Country% of Global FDIFDI (current USD)
🇺🇸 U.S.23.7$10.5T
🇨🇳 China8.6$3.8T
🌍 Rest of World67.7$30.0T

The U.S. and China are first and second in terms of cumulative FDI stock. Attracting FDI is one area where China has performed very strongly in recent years.

For example, in 2012, China had attracted $950 billion in FDI, good enough for sixth place. As of 2022, China’s total had grown to $3.8 trillion, a testament to its attractiveness to global businesses, even in the face of regulatory challenges and geopolitical tensions.

Learn More About the Global Economy From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this graphic, check out this graphic ranking the world’s biggest stock markets by country.

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