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Visualizing How the Demographics of China and India are Diverging

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How the Demographics of China and India are Diverging

Within popular discourse, especially in the West, the profiles of China and India have become inextricably linked.

Aside from their massive populations and geographical proximity in Asia, the two nations also have deep cultural histories and traditions, growing amounts of influence on the world stage, and burgeoning middle classes.

China and India combine to be home to one-third of the world’s megacities, and they even had identical real GDP growth rates of 6.1% in 2019, based on early estimates by the IMF.

Diverging Demographics

But aside from the obvious differences in their political regimes, the two populous nations have also diverged in another way: demographics.

As seen in today’s animation, which comes from AnimateData and leverages data from the United Nations, the two countries are expected to have very different demographic compositions over time as their populations age.

The easiest way to see this is through a macro lens:

Populations of China and India (1950-2100)

 1950201920502100
🇮🇳 India 0.38 billion1.37 billion1.64 billion1.45 billion
🇨🇳 China0.55 billion1.43 billion1.40 billion1.06 billion

Although the countries have roughly the same populations today — by 2050, India will add roughly 270 million more citizens, and China’s total will actually decrease by 30 million people.

Let’s look at the demographic profiles of these countries to break things down further. We’ll do this by charting populations of age groups (0-14 years, 15-24 years, 25-64 years, and 65+ years).

China: Aftermath of the One-Child Policy

China’s one-child policy was implemented in 1979 — and although it became no longer effective starting in 2016, there’s no doubt that the long-term demographic impacts of this drastic measure will be felt for generations:

China Demographic Profile by Age and Population

The first thing you’ll notice in the above chart is that China’s main working age population cohort (25-64 years) has essentially already peaked in size.

Further, you’ll notice that the populations of children (0-14 years) and young adults (15-24 years) have both been on the decline for decades.

Typical population age structure diagrams

A reduction in births is something that happens naturally in a demographic transition. As an economy becomes more developed, it’s common for fertility rates to decrease — but in China’s case, it has happened prematurely through policy. As a result, the country’s age distribution doesn’t really fit a typical profile.

India: A Workforce Peaking in 2050

Meanwhile, projections have India reaching a peak workforce age population near the year 2050:

India Demographic Profile by Age and Population

By the year 2050, it’s estimated that India’s workforce age population will be comparable in size to that of China’s today — over 800 million people strong.

However, given that this is at least 30 years in the future, it raises all kinds of questions around the economic relevance of a “working age” population in a landscape potentially dominated by technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation.

Different Paths

While it’s clear that the world’s two most populous countries have some key similarities, they are both on very different demographic paths at the moment.

China’s population has plateaued, and will eventually decline over the remainder of the 21st century. There is plenty of room to grow economically, but the weight of an aging population will create additional social and economic pressures. By 2050, it’s estimated that over one-third of the country will be 60 years or older.

On the other hand, India is following a more traditional demographic path, as long as it is uninterrupted by drastic policy decisions. The country will likely top out at 1.6-1.7 billion people, before it begins to experience the typical demographic transition already experienced by more developed economies in North America, Europe, and Japan.

And by the time the Indian workforce age group hits 800+ million people, it will be interesting to see how things interplay with the world’s inevitable technological shift to automation and a changing role for labor.

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Mining

Visualizing China’s Dominance in Rare Earth Metals

Rare earth deposits exist all over the planet, but the majority of the world’s rare earth metals are produced and refined in China.

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China's rare earth exports

China’s Dominance in Rare Earth Metals

Did you know that a single iPhone contains eight different rare earth metals?

From smartphones and electric vehicles to x-rays and guided-missiles, several modern technologies wouldn’t be what they are without rare earth metals. Also known as rare earth elements or simply “rare earths”, this group of 17 elements is critical to a number of wide-ranging industries.

Although deposits of rare earth metals exist all over the world, the majority of both mining and refining occurs in China. The above graphic from CSIS China Power Project tracks China’s exports of rare earth metals in 2019, providing a glimpse of the country’s dominating presence in the global supply chain.

China’s Top Rare Earth Export Destinations

Around 88% of China’s 2019 rare earth exports went to just five countries, which are among the world’s technological and economic powerhouses.

Export DestinationShare of China's Rare Earth ExportsTop Rare Earth Import (tons)
Japan36.0%Cerium
United States33.4%Lanthanum
Netherlands9.6%Lanthanum
South Korea5.4%Lanthanum
Italy3.5%Cerium
Rest of the World12.1%Cerium

Japan and the U.S. are by far the largest importers, collectively accounting for more than two-thirds of China’s rare earth metals exports.

Lanthanum, found in hybrid vehicles and smartphones, was China’s largest rare earth export by volume, followed by cerium. In dollar terms, terbium was the most expensive—generating $57.9 million from just 115 metric tons of exports.

Why China’s Dominance Matters

As the world transitions to a cleaner future, the demand for rare earth metals is expected to nearly double by 2030, and countries are in need of a reliable supply chain.

China’s virtual monopoly in rare earth metals not only gives it a strategic upper hand over heavily dependent countries like the U.S.—which imports 80% of its rare earths from China—but also makes the supply chain anything but reliable.

“China will not rule out using rare earth exports as leverage to deal with the [Trade War] situation.”

—Gao Fengping et al., 2019, in a report funded by the Chinese government via Horizon Advisory.

A case in point comes from 2010 when China reduced its rare earth export quotas by 37%, which in part resulted in skyrocketing rare earth prices worldwide.

average prices of rare earth imports

The resulting supply chain disruption was significant enough to push the EU, the U.S., and Japan to jointly launch a dispute settlement case through the World Trade Organization, which was ruled against China in 2014.

On the brighter side, the increase in prices led to an influx of capital in the rare earth mining industry, financing more than 200 projects outside China. While this exploration boom was short-lived, it was successful in kick-starting production in other parts of the world.

Breaking China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

China’s dominance in rare earths is the result of years of evolving industrial policies since the 1980s, ranging from tax rebates to export restrictions. In order to reduce dependence on China, the U.S. and Japan have made it a priority to diversify their sources of rare earth metals.

For starters, the U.S. has added rare earth metals to its list of critical minerals, and President Donald Trump recently issued an executive order to encourage local production. On the other side of the world, Japan is making efforts to reduce China’s share of its total rare earth imports to less than 50% by 2025.

Increasing rare earth mining outside of China has reduced China’s global share of mining, down from 97.7% in 2010 to 62.9% in 2019. But mining is merely one piece of the puzzle.

Ultimately, the large majority of rare earth refining, 80%, resides in China. Therefore, even rare earths mined overseas are sent to China for final processing. New North American refining facilities are being set up to tackle this, but the challenge lies in managing the environmental impacts of processing rare earths.

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Technology

Mapped: The Top Surveillance Cities Worldwide

Which cities have the most CCTV cameras? This map reveals the top surveillance cities worldwide in terms of the prevalence of CCTV cameras.

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surveillance cities and CCTV

The Top Surveillance Cities Worldwide

Since the world’s first CCTV camera was installed in Germany in 1942, the number of surveillance cameras around the world has grown immensely. In fact, it only took us 79 years to go from one camera to nearly one billion of these devices.

In the above interactive graphic, Surfshark maps out how prevalent CCTV surveillance cameras are in the world’s 130 most populous cities.

Big Brother is Watching

So how many of us are being watched? China and India are the countries with the highest densities of CCTV surveillance cameras in urban areas. Chennai, India has 657 cameras per square kilometer, making it the number one city in the world in terms of surveillance.

Here’s a closer look at the world’s top 10 cities by CCTV density.

RankCityCCTVs per square kmCCTVs per 1,000 people
#1🇮🇳 Chennai, India65725.5
#2🇮🇳 Hyderabad, India48030.0
#3🇨🇳 Harbin, China41139.1
#4🇬🇧 London, England39967.5
#5🇨🇳 Xiamen, China38540.3
#6🇨🇳 Chengdu, China35033.9
#7🇨🇳 Taiyuan, China319119.6
#8🇮🇳 Delhi, India28914.2
#9🇨🇳 Kunming, China28145.0
#10🇨🇳 Beijing, China27856.2

London is the only non-Asian city to crack the list with 399 CCTV cameras per square kilometer.

Beijing ranks in tenth place. The Chinese capital has the highest number of CCTV cameras in total, at just over 1.1 million installed in the city.

Although CCTV cameras have become extremely prevalent in cities around the world, this does not mean these cameras are seeing and recognizing our every move. In most instances, cameras are in a fixed position—and some of the more invasive aspects of CCTV, like accompanying facial recognition technology, are not universal yet.

The Need for CCTV

The ubiquity of surveillance cameras can be unnerving to some, as they represent diminishing privacy. However, there are also those that feel the presence of cameras creates added safety.

While governments like China’s claim that having high amounts of surveillance cameras helps reduce crime, the actual data gets messy. For example, the Chinese city of Taiyuan has roughly 120 cameras per every thousand people and yet the city has a higher crime index than most.

Freedom vs. Security

As surveillance networks become more sophisticated and granular, there is increasing concern about breaches to personal freedoms.

China is doubling down with surveillance in its cities by pioneering the usage and exportation of facial recognition technology. This technology is integral to China’s proposed social points system. With a database of 1.3 billion pictures that can be matched to a face on a CCTV camera in seconds, troublemaking citizens can easily be identified.

In India, on the other hand, the amount of cameras can be attributed to mass urbanization, rising crime, and scarcity of urban resources. Overall, there is a rising middle class that wishes to protect itself with the use of CCTV cameras.

As we close in on one billion CCTV surveillance cameras globally by the end of 2021, we will undoubtedly continue to be monitored well into the future.

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