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

The U.S. and China Account for Half the World’s Household Wealth

This visualization breaks down how household wealth is distributed around the world. Just 10 countries now account for 75% of total household wealth.

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The U.S. and China Account for Half the World’s Household Wealth

Measures like GDP are commonly used to understand the overall wealth and size of the economy. While looking at economic output on an annual basis is useful, there are other metrics to consider when evaluating the wealth of a nation.

Household wealth statistics reveal which country’s citizens are accruing the highest level of money and assets worldwide.

This visual utilizes data from Credit Suisse’s annual Global Wealth Report to break down the latest estimates for household wealth by country.

Household Wealth, by Country

Here’s how the world’s $463 trillion in household wealth is distributed:

RankCountryHousehold Wealth (2022)% of World Total
#1🇺🇸 United States$145.8T31.5%
#2🇨🇳 China$85.1T18.4%
#3🇯🇵 Japan$25.7T5.5%
#4🇩🇪 Germany$17.5T3.8%
#5🇬🇧 United Kingdom$16.3T3.5%
#6🇫🇷 France$16.2T3.5%
#7🇮🇳 India$14.2T3.1%
#8🇨🇦 Canada$12.4T2.7%
#9🇮🇹 Italy$11.5T2.5%
#10🇦🇺 Australia$10.6T2.3%
#11🇰🇷 South Korea$10.1T2.2%
#12🇪🇸 Spain$8.4T1.8%
#13🇹🇼 Taiwan$5.9T1.3%
#14🇳🇱 Netherlands$5.4T1.2%
#15🇨🇭 Switzerland$4.9T1.1%
Rest of World$73.6T15.6%
Total:$463.6T100.0%

As the table above demonstrates, global household wealth is far from being distributed equally.

Country-Level Wealth Concentration

Much of global wealth is concentrated in the biggest economies, with households in China and the U.S. combining to make up half of all personal wealth in the world. This differs slightly from using GDP as a measure, where the U.S. and China make up 24% and 19% of the world economy in nominal terms, respectively.

Today, just 10 countries account for 75% of total household wealth.

One of the biggest changes in recent years is the rise of wealth in China. A decade ago, China’s citizens were estimated to hold just 9% of the world’s wealth. That figure has now more than doubled, while median wealth in the country has skyrocketed from $3,111 to $26,752 between 2000 and 2021.

A Regional Look at Household Wealth

From a regional standpoint, wealth is equally split three ways, between North America, Asia, and everywhere else.

Chart showing global household wealth by region

In just one decade, Europe’s share of household wealth dropped by eight percentage points, which is due, in part, to the economic momentum of China.

Surprisingly, the regions of Africa, South America, Oceania, and the Middle East combine only for about 11% of the world’s total household wealth.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse

Data note: There is no straightforward way of estimating household wealth in various countries, so the report utilizes three main measures including: a country’s average level of wealth, the patterns of a country’s wealth holdings, and Forbes list of billionaires.

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Misc

Ranked: The World’s Most Surveilled Cities

The world’s most surveilled cities contain hundreds of thousands of cameras. View this infographic to see the data in perspective.

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Ranked: The World’s Most Surveilled Cities

This may come as a surprise, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the global urban population overtook the rural population. At that time, the two groups were split nearly 50/50, with around 3.3 billion people apiece.

Today, the percentage of people living in urban areas has grown to over 55%, and is expected to reach 68% by 2050. Due to this trend, many of the world’s largest cities have become home to tens of millions of people.

In response to such incredible density, governments, businesses, and households have installed countless security cameras for various purposes including crime protection. To grasp the scale of this surveillance, we’ve taken data from a recent report by Comparitech to visualize the most surveilled cities in the world.

The List (Excluding China)

Excluding China for the time being, these are the world’s 10 most surveilled cities.

CityPopulationNumber of CamerasCameras per
1,000 people
🇮🇳 Indore, India3.2M200,60063
🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India10.5M440,29942
🇮🇳 Delhi, India16.3M436,60027
🇮🇳 Chennai, India11.5M282,12625
🇸🇬 Singapore6.0M108,98118
🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia12.6M213,00017
🇮🇶 Baghdad, Iraq7.5M120,00016
🇬🇧 London, UK9.5M127,37313
🇷🇺 St. Petersburg, Russia5.5M70,00013
🇺🇸 Los Angeles, U.S.3.9M34,9599

Figures rounded

The top four cities all belong to India, which is the world’s second largest country by population. Surveillance cameras are playing a major role in the country’s efforts to reduce crimes against women.

Further down the list are cities from a variety of countries. One of these is Russia, which has expanded its use of surveillance cameras in recent years. Given the country’s track record of human rights violations, activists are worried that facial recognition technology could become a tool of oppression.

The only U.S. city on the list is Los Angeles, which contains some of the country’s wealthiest neighborhoods and municipalities. That includes Beverly Hills, which according to the Los Angeles Times, has over 2,000 cameras for its population of 32,500. That translates to about 62 cameras per 1,000 people, meaning that Beverly Hills would finish at #2 in the global ranking if it were listed as a separate entity.

Surveillance in China

IHS Markit estimates that as of 2021, there are over 1 billion surveillance cameras installed worldwide. The firm also believes that 54% of these cameras are located in China.

Because of limited transparency, it’s impossible to pinpoint how many cameras are actually in each Chinese city. However, if we assume that China has 540 million cameras and divide that amongst its population of 1.46 billion, we can reasonably say that there are 373 cameras per 1,000 people (figures rounded).

Cameras in China

A limitation of this approach is that it assumes everyone in China lives in a city, which is far from reality. The most recent World Bank figures suggest that 37% of China’s population is rural, which equates to over 500 million people.

With this in mind, the number of cameras per 1,000 people in a Tier 1+ Chinese city (e.g. Shanghai) is likely far greater than 373.

More About China

China’s expansive use of cameras and facial recognition technology has been widely documented in the media. These networks enable the country’s social credit program, which gives local governments an unprecedented amount of oversight over its citizens.

For example, China’s camera networks can be used to verify ATM withdrawals, permit access into homes, and even publicly shame people for minor offences like jaywalking.

This might sound like a dystopian nightmare to Western audiences, but according to Chinese citizens, it’s mostly a good thing. In a 2018 survey of 2,209 citizens, 80% of respondents approved of social credit systems.

If you’re interested in learning more about surveillance in Chinese cities, consider this video from The Economist, which explores the opportunities and dangers of comprehensive state control.

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