China’s Birthrate Hits Historic Low, in Looming Crisis for Beijing

In a country where most older adults rely heavily on their families, the continuing drop in births could have a seismic effect in the decades to come.

Comments: 188

  1. Is China's rapidly aging and shrinking population with a below replacement level birthrate coupled with a massive male gender imbalance headed for the ash heap of history? To be replaced by the most populous democracy India? Japan and South Korea are also rapidly aging and shrinking with below replacement level birthrates. To be replaced by Indonesia and Vietnam? Movement into the educated prosperous middle class typically leads to delayed and smaller families or no kids at all. While improvements in health and medical care have increased our mortal existence.

  2. Japan is already lumbering into demographic disaster as its population has grown into the oldest in the world (roughly 25% of its population is now over 65) and it is now depopulating by around 500,000 people per year. Its cities are shrinking, and now whole villages and towns are either dead and abandoned. Whole rural regions are now just expanses of old people waiting around to die. The only part of Japan that is growing is the Tokyo-Yokohama metro region, and this metropolis is slated to start shrinking by 2025 or so. However, Japan was able to amass wealth during its heady years of economic growth from the 1960s to 1990s, and it achieved developed, industrialized status for almost all of its people by the 1970s. Japan has a financial cushion. China isn't even there yet. It has little to no financial cushion. It will have a much harder fall than Japan as its population of 1.4 billion starts shrinking at around 1 million people per year starting in 2030. It won't be pretty for the Chinese.

  3. @Luboman411 Scary times, except for no reputable demographic sources state that Japan is depopulating so rapidly. There is no data available that corroborates 500k loss per year.

  4. The true human planetary economy is well into an irreversible depression because, in spite of China's declining birth rates, 200,000 more people will join us today on our small planet than leave. Is that a statistic you are aware of? If not, no wonder. Look at this article- all it does is bemoan the tragedy of a possibly faltering economy if the Chinese don't have more babies. When you read about environmental degradation in this very newspaper, the fact that the human population has tripled in my lifetime won't be mentioned, mostly only the transition to clean energy will be served at that meal. Meanwhile, the rapid decline in global extreme poverty and infant mortality is a blessing AND an curse. Every day more food is required and more money is available to purchase toxic industrial goods. More wilderness including forests will be destroyed to grow food and more pollution will enter our oceans, ground water and atmosphere. If the NY Times and other media fails to address this issue, China's faltering economy will be the least of our concerns. The question is, why are we ignoring the one elephant that isn't going away.

  5. @alan haigh very well said and I totally agree, I'm very sick and tired of hearing how a "declining birthrates" are impacting the economy of China or some European nation. The reality is that, as you note, we are still very overpopulated, and news articles should focus on how we structure an economy to accommodate billions of people. Sure, in a few years, we'll hit a slow down and possibly a reversal in population increase, but by then our polar bears might be all gone, our elephant and rhino population decimated, and just look at Australia. The death of those animals will have an impact on the eco system for decades to come. And no, the fires are not directly due to climate change, but likely due to years of drought (because of climate change) the fires burned wider, deeper and longer. Those are things we should bemoan, not that the Chinese or the Europeans are (finally!) having less babies!

  6. @Alice "but by then our polar bears might be all gone, our elephant and rhino population decimated," You are more optimistic than I and many scientists. The point we reach an ecological free-fall dooming all complicated life forms is unpredictable but species are already going extinct at an alarming rate- never mind the ones humans cherish the most. Mother nature has one rule- fail to pay the rent an you will be evicted. It isn't just birth rates, it is increasing longevity as well.

  7. @Alice Also the tech solutions for the economic difficulties of declining human population should be almost automatic with the development of robot tech and other human labor replacement. The governments only have to make sure that the profits from that "robot labor" is adequately distributed. Industrial pollution created by human consumption and food production is a much harder nut to crack.

  8. China is in a new category – neither a state nor a federation, it is in my view a true Union of States depending on a single party for guides that Chinese should with Chinese flexibility to an extent discursive correspond with! Chinese are each a good individual national, and might do that which can be correct to win the advantage!

  9. @Mark C. Major Not really a new category but one its own.

  10. @Mark C. Major Rather than focusing on differences to be discerned between these two – each across the Northern Pacific in relation to the other side – the great United States and the great State Union of the People’s Republic, should what is similar be focused on Some brief examples: each nation has a Government (neither’s an anarchy); people will increasingly enjoy spending; both countries enjoy to an extent rule of laws and partial loosening of some of the restraints that society should impose..

  11. @Mark C. Major Rather than focusing on differences to be discerned between these two – each across the Northern Pacific in relation to the other side – the great United States and the great State Union of the People’s Republic, should what is similar be focused on Some brief examples: each nation has a Government (neither’s an anarchy); people will increasingly enjoy spending; both countries enjoy to an extent rule of laws yet there could be loosening of restraints which the greatest of people might seemingly place around citizens always..

  12. Important though this topic is, and no matter how well-informed the specialists consulted (and I know from personal experience how excellent they are), this isn't actually news. The low birth rate (relating births to total population) does not reflect a drop in children born to each woman (that is unchanged, as it officially has been in China for 25 years), but rather the shortage of mothers. The low fertility of the later 1980s and 1990s now means that there are few women of childbearing age. A falling birth rate is simply locked in to China's future, even if mothers now decided to have more children.

  13. @Chris Not to mention that discouraging things like single parenting so heavily, not having a safety net so poorer people can feel more able to reproduce, and no doubt discouraging any attempts at artificial insemination/use of surrogate mothers by LGBT couples means that they'll lose many of the forces that help reduce the steepness of of the US's falling birth rate.

  14. The world population has doubled in the last 50 years. All problems become more tractable with a smaller population. Reducing carbon emissions would be a lot easier with 3.5 billion people instead of 7 billion people. Competition for resources would diminish. Transportation problems ease. The lower birth rate in China is a very good thing both for China and the world.

  15. @gbb History shows the opposite. Looking at the third world since 1950, the most densely populated countries such as those in East Asia developed the best, while the most sparsely populated ones such as those in Africa and Latin America did the worst. In the case of China, the large population has been a clear advantage to economic growth, as that’s what enabled the massive economies of scale and low-cost industries to rise there, gave local people bargaining power against foreign multinationals, and allowed infrastructure to connect lots of people at low cost. Competition for resources diminished as China’s population grew because its economy grew too; China had a massive famine in 1960 when it had 600 million people (plus lots of famines in the 1850-1950 period when it had 400-500 million), yet today it has 1.4 billion people and is starting to see an obesity problem. The world’s poorest people do not live in overpopulated countries like Bangladesh, but in sparsely populated ones like the Central African Republic where no infrastructure can reach them.

  16. @gbb While a greatly reduced birth rate is good for relieving many but not all of the destructive pressures we put on our biosphere, a population with a high proportion of elderly needs to prepare for a different set of challenges—not existential to the species, as climate is, but nonetheless capable of causing misery if we refuse to address these challenges. In other words, while a reduced population is good, a population top-heavy with elders will have problems that we should prepare for. I don’t know why support for population control has to be anti-child and nothing more. Pro-woman, pro-birth control policies emphasize positive choices, not “no one should have children ever” hysteria that only creates a sense of misanthropy and doom. The anti-child sect on the left is one source of the apathy (or antipathy) that contributes to the policy neglect of our nation”s children that Paul Krugman wrote about in his recent column—we wouldn’t want to support those often crudely referred to as “breeders!” And in case you’re wondering, my sister and I have reproduced at a rate of only a single child between the two of us. I consider that a sane rate of reproduction, but it does raise the spectacle of that one child some day having to deal with three elders, including her father. And not having children doesn’t fix our unsustainable consumerism.

  17. @gbb Amen. I have been saying this for years now. We are the worst pollution on the planet and we need to get serious about reducing our numbers if we are to survive as a species. There may be temporary pain associated with an excess of elderly people, but as someone who is about to be one of those old folks without a support system (having no children myself), I am willing to deal with it. Future generations will be better off, that is if they don't drown, burn up or starve during the coming climate crisis.

  18. The migration of people from farms to the big city shaped the USA for almost a century. And so it is in China. The movement from places where people earn and live on a few dollars a day, to the coastal cities where incomes are "middle class" comparable to typical Americans continues to have a major impact on China. This means that even if the population continues to age, the economy can continue to grow through migration. Previous generations were not all educated while the young generation typically finish high school and many go onto college including large numbers studying in the USA and UK. The increase in education/training should allow China to continue to increase productivity even as the population ages. (this is unlike the USA where large numbers of baby boomers and following generations went to college or more and productivity has been harder to improve). No doubt China will feel the challenges of an aging population but they need not be the same as in the USA. Chinese are huge savers and have not amassed the same credit card bills or student loans as Americans. Also there is no healthcare system in the world as wasteful or expensive as the USA, which means the challenge in giving medical services to elderly (as a whole) will be harder here than there. The Chinese are also a healthier lot and many old people still go to the parks to do their daily exercises.

  19. The only economic problem with declining birth rates is making sure some of the profits from the computer technology, including robotics, that will easily replace these human workers ends up in the hands of retired workers. That is so obvious that one wonder how articles like this one consistently miss the main point. A serious drop in human population may be the only thing adequate to save the human population. Wake up!

  20. Interesting that the reporter ends the story citing parallels to global warming, as we hear from "woke" young people all the time in the US that they are reluctant to become parents or absolutely not going to have children due to the climate crisis. Two questions: are any of the young adults in China sharing the same climate related reticence of their Amrerican counterparts? And how do we, and other countries, constructively adjust to lower birth rates at a time when we need to radically change how we power our society and use other resources if we are to have a future.

  21. Perhaps bad for the employers but good for the Earth. The past predicts the future. China will simply decree that somehow the elderly should disappear for the good of China. Voila: problem solved. Low wage workers will be replaced by automation. New problem: not enough customers.

  22. No, this is excellent news for China and the world. Human numbers fuel the climate crisis, mass extinctions, deforestation, pandemics and a decrease of other resources including clean air and water. 1/7th of us, by a one child policy, is 1/7 these problems.

  23. @Newell McCarty Well that is a rather convenient calculation for people in the U.S., whose carbon footprint per capita (meaning per individual citizen, on average) is vastly larger than the one of the average Chinese, African, Indian or of the citizens of many Western European countries. Fewer people living or aspiring to U.S.-type lifestyles is the way to go. We ALL need to downsize fast.

  24. @Winteca I’m sure the original commenter and all these of us agree that Americans need to choose to limit our childbearing to 0-2 children per couple as well.

  25. Many developped countries have birthrates around 1.6. These countries are however able to compensate population declines with immigration. However, given China's size, that is not an option. How China will cope is difficult to say. For some countries, population declines have Indeed contributed to economic problems. China should perhaps have a look at Japan to see how to cope.

  26. This is probably not a big issue if China’s economy keeps growing. Wages in China have been doubling every ten years. One person today does not have a bigger burden than two people ten years ago because the one person today makes as much money as both people combined ten years ago. Furthermore, the retirement age in China is 60 for men and 50 for women; they could solve their workforce issue for the next few decades by moving to a retirement age of 67 like we have in the US.

  27. @HO So your advice is to keep the “Ponzi” scheme going?

  28. As industry mechanizes, replacing assembly line workers with robots, fewer workers are needed to maintain production. China's manufacturing is becoming the most advanced in the world, and will soon advance to where it has too many workers. China's agriculture has lagged in development, depending on manual labour in very small rice paddies. The society is now wealthy enough to upgrade here and reduce the number of workers required. It may be that provided they can make adjustments to their retirement system and provide care for the aging, that the issue goes away. Also, the lack of children is most likely in the Han Chinese of the coastal cities. They should stop persecuting minorities like the Uighurs as I bet they would continue to have children if allowed to prosper.

  29. @TMah I fail to see either solutions, or good news in your post.

  30. This is positive news. The 1.4 billion people of China have taken virtually all of China's habitat for themselves and left nothing for other living things. If they will just continue to drive their human population down to a few hundred million, perhaps the biosphere still has a chance.

  31. Our population needs to decline too. There used to be a “how many Earths to support X population” calculation in popular circulation. As I recall that was back in the 1970s or thereabouts, and I also recall that a sustainable Earth can only support a fraction of our current population. Every country needs to confront the need to dramatically reduce populations in as controlled a way as possible (if that’s possible).

  32. @Matthew I was born into an America with about 200 million. That was enough. We were able to do great things as a nation, have generally good quality of life, and have wild places to enjoy. We could go to where we had enough space that we didn’t need a rules straightjacket squeezing us in all the time.

  33. It used to be the threat from China was the yellow peril and blue ants overwhelming the world. At least now we have the lesser worry of old Chinese tourists inadvertently damaging those cultural sites. I am glad NYT is now not focusing the China threat of replacing U.S. as number one and taking away jobs here (at least temporarily). Truly I do wish NYT publish more of what China is doing to alleviate those problems concerning all of us in this planet and reach better understanding. China is dealing with the aging problem not by expanding the population but by making older population lives more meaningful. Instead of privatizing state enterprises she is moving the ownership to state pension funds to solve the shortfall in social security. China is anticipating the climate warming by dealing not only in green jobs and electric cars, but rerouting waters from Himalayas to deserts in the northwest. So please do less demonizing about Xi, protests and democracy in Hong Kong, ask what's wrong with so called democracy here in U.S., that problems is left unsolved.

  34. This is very good news. I wish the birth rate would drop in India and South America also. Overpopulation is the main cause of climate change, habitat destruction, species loss, pollution, as well as the competition for housing, jobs, water and food. Life was better when there were 3 billion humans on Earth about 60 years ago and now there are nearly 8 billion of us, and counting.

  35. @CJ Too bad the US or Europe haven't dealt with their own overpopulation...Europe is one of the most densely populated continents in the world while the US is both overpopulated in many of its parts and over-consumes (a double whammy). I would disagree that South America is overpopulated, though, its population density is lower than Europe's in most cases. Usually screeds about overpopulation by those living in the West really mean that there are too many of 'those' people (who are not like us) rather than there are too many of 'our' people.

  36. @Wonderer you are working with a dated paradigm. Population density leads to efficiencies. It is the less dense areas that consume outsized amounts of energy and resources, mostly to heat free standing homes and drive cars.

  37. You haven’t looked at the numbers or you are purposely ignoring them. Take Central America where so many are trying to leave. Their populations have gone up between 4 and 6 x since 1950. Mexico. 1950 ~30 million. Today ~120 million. Over population has been the number one change in all these countries and is the biggest challenge they face.

  38. The idea that China or the US or the world will run out of people of working age is nonsense. By 2050, the fraction of working age in China is projected to be about 60%: This is the same ratio as in the US in the 60's, which was a very prosperous time when there was no serious complaints about a shortage of workers. Those who predict a shortage of workers appear to be unaware of two things: 1) people below working age as well as those above that age have to be supported; and 2) increases in productivity will certainly overwhelm any effects of a smaller workforce. See Dean Baker's blog (Beat the Press) for discussion of the productivity numbers. There may be certain economic effects from decreasing population, but shrinking markets are more likely to cause problems than lack of workers. As the world faces the consequences of global warming and shortage of resources it is highly irresponsible to dwell on the fake problem of worker shortage.

  39. Once again. this shows the cruelty to the Communist system. Until recently the CCP enforced the one-child policy which dictated to parents in order to control the population and resulted in much frustration. However, under the magic of Freedom of Choice, capitalism, and the "demographic transition," the problem is solved and everybody is much happier.

  40. @Amy I would argue that Central and South America are examples of how wrong you are. Breed yourself into poverty so that you can be exploited by some greedy baron? No thanks.

  41. @BambooBlue it's the Communist/Socialist masters who are the barons in South America.

  42. No mention of the millions of missing daughters? I have an 18-year-old niece who was left at a police station with a note, most definitely by a mother who could not afford to feed her or already had a child or even was under pressure to produce a male. There are rural areas of China where wealthy farmers cannot find any young women to marry their sons and provide them with grandchildren, and there have been documented cases of kidnapping young women to become brides.

  43. @Maureen Your point is an important one, but the shortage of females was due not to simply the one-child policy. A one-child policy would likely have had far fewer unintended bad consequences if the country's entrenched preference for males and dependence on daughters-in-law for the care of the elderly were addressed. My daughter was left at a bank at ten days old. Her biological parents probably felt they had little choice. Expanding the limit to two children in most cases (even more children are allowed in the case of some minorities) was intended to address this, and has resulted in fewer abandoned babies.

  44. China is a world leader in AI. The idea that society needs lots of people to function efficiently is based on twentieth-century thinking. China will have plenty of workers to meet its needs. The challenge after 2050 will be how to distribute wealth and government services to workers whose jobs have been replaced by automation. Africa and India are in serious trouble.

  45. Does China need more people to care for elders? Or should it consider the sort of social welfare systems that Communist states are supposed to provide their citizens. It would seem that having fewer people with higher living standards would be better for China and the planet.

  46. The demographic / reproductive decline that both Russia and China are experiencing will make it harder for them to field a functioning military. It will be interesting if that makes us safer, or in greater peril...

  47. @Mad Max You are ignoring the fact that our birthdate is also decreasing, for ,ice the same reasons. Young people, especially women, no longer see raising children as a necessary part of like. I am glad they are making the right decisions for themselves and resisting the expectations of others.

  48. @Lucy H: Not when you factor in the birthrates of immigrants (and/or just more people coming to the U.S., regardless of whether they procreate), from what I've read. Including all persons in the U.S., we are just now at about ZPG. Which is fine, BTW. The whole world needs to be in a negative growth trend for several generations, IMO.

  49. “There are a lot of parallels with this demographic crisis to global warming,” Dr. Cai said. “The waters are rising slowly, and we need a longer term strategy to deal with it.” Nope. Global warming threatens to kill us all - the end. Low fertility rates are exactly the opposite: the perfect answer to humanity’s problems, and the chance of a future. If anything, the waters in this case are not rising fast enough.

  50. The world's population is too high. Our species is crowding out everything else. If a significant number of people in the coming two generations decide that their lives are quite full without children -- well, so much the better for the species and for the planet of which we are a part.

  51. Daniel Ellsberg was horrified to find that US plan for nuclear war with Russia was to also drop a bomb on China. The national prejudice against China is alive and kicking in this article, and in the comments. Does anyone think that reducing population for a warming planet will happen by choice? That taking a 2 minute shower and reusing a piece of aluminum will save us all? No matter what China does, it is condemned. And in the article, as always, there is thought to cut down population in South America and In other places, but not the USA. As greed spreads through China, they can always learn from us how to take care of the aging population- not at all.

  52. Why do we always have to look at slowing population growth with dread? China fits a population nearly 5 times as big as the US in an area about the size of the US. Do they really need more people? Flat population was the norm through most of human history, it was only when we wiped out infectious disease and greatly improved farm productivity in the 19th and 20th centuries that we saw sustained population growth. The world will not end if our population stops growing, but if it keeps growing, we'll eventually run out of space.

  53. The "looming demographic crisis" is global climate change. World population has been zooming up just fine for the last few centuries.

  54. Troubled times. Folks intrinsically know when their governments are failing them. China is building the biggest, and deepest surveillance state, and deeply limiting the autonomy, and self expression of it's people. Most folks dont want to bring children into that kind of world, and the wealthy are investing in escape hatches for their offspring

  55. Look at the sky in the photo accompanying the article. It's that color in many areas of China every single day. No hint of blue. Can you you envision what daily life over there looks like and smells like and feels like in your lungs? Less people equals less carbon footprints. Great news.

  56. Having children requires hope, something that’s in short supply all around the world.

  57. @John Yet some of the poorest societies on Earth are the ones having the most children! Look at some African countries which are ridiculously poor yet have astounding population growth rates of 3%-4% per year such as Niger. Low birthrates are the result of urbanization, women's liberation and education, and general prosperity - this is what countries with high population growth rates lack.

  58. This is good news for Mother Earth. Anything that limits or reduces the number of human beings benefits all other living beings. I can only hope this trend continues in every location inhabited by humans.

  59. "Dong Chang, a 28-year-old administrative employee at a dentist’s clinic in Beijing, said millennials like her enjoyed spending on themselves without batting an eyelid and would find it hard to sacrifice their wants for a child. 'We are all only children, and to be honest, a little selfish,' she said. 'How can I raise a child when I’m still a child myself? And take care of him and feed him at midnight?'” You're 28 - it's time to grow up. Selfishness is a deadly society disease.

  60. @Maggie The truly selfish are those who have more than 2 children.

  61. Why is this breathlessly reported as something terrible? The planet has probably at least twice as many people now on it as it can comfortably/healthily support.

  62. In China these days, it is young people milking their parents instead of other way around.

  63. Maybe they are realizing that they don't want to bring children into the world to slave in factories making cheap plastic stuff for Western countries. The government is afraid that if life starts to have meaning, life will demand fairer wages and conditions.

  64. How about some of the best and brightest designing an economic model that does not require the cancer of endless population and consumption growth?

  65. If other countries had this same “problem” we’d all be better off and able to face that challenge together.

  66. Isn't this a good thing? Isn't overpopulation the leading cause of climate change and lack of resources? These always seem like crazy fear mongering stories. We need less people on this planet if we want it and us to survive.

  67. It isn't a "good thing" if you want to collect Social Security.

  68. @Jeffrey K Great Idea! With a little luck India and Pakistan may soon go at each other with nukes. Or, maybe some new virus will materialize. And how about a global economic depression? Who knows that the extinction of the honey bee won't precipitate massive famine and starvation? I cite these because they are all plausible/possible and could emerge at any moment. There 's also the possibility of a global nuclear war before tRump exits the stage. But the smart money would have to be on the near-term effects of global warming. When our grandchildren are confronted with shrinking coastlines that submerge major cities they won't be concerned about their pensions, hobbies or offspring. Survival will be the universal prayer.

  69. @Melissa Social security shortfalls resulting from aging populations can be fixed with higher payroll taxes and retirement ages. Both of which are much more desirable than turning the Forbidden City into condos.

  70. Think what one may of China or any country, there is a fundamental truth (simple math) in the consequences of having 3 or 4 people family (or 8-10 people families). Be it around a given plate of food or the availability & cost of housing, education, infrastructure, health costs, etc.. Calling for more population growth anywhere (to temporarily impact existing problem) is only going to impact the future more negatively. If we push birth rates or bring in masses to work and "pay current social security" ... how many will be needed when they retire? There have to be better ways than failed "group" thinking.

  71. Interesting that no country, or, apparently, demographer, reporter, etc, looks beyond their own borders. Globally we have no shortage of young people. But will richer countries across Asia, Europe, as well as the USA even consider, much less permit or encourage, immigration as the solution to the their workforce and elder care needs? The planet does not need more humans. We need to look globally for our solutions, to climate change and these demographic shifts. But alas, I doubt that will happen.

  72. @Tessa Immigration as primary solution to any issue is chimera : On the one hand massive immigration actually causes brain drains in countries that need these citizens the most to build or rebuild. On the other, transplanting poverty from one nation to another doesn't solve the original problems either ...

  73. @Si Seulement Voltaire Your point about the brain drain applies to countries like Canada that have a points-based immigration system and where immigrants are selected based on their skill and education. An obvious solution is to accept unskilled or low-skilled immigrants that are not particularly bright but are willing to work hard in jobs that we Westerners won't do (think crop harvesting, taking care of the elderly, etc). This is a win because you don't have a brain drain from the source country and you get the physical labour that our aging societies can no longer perform.

  74. @Wonderer In other words, what is needed is balance. Not too much brain drain, not too much importation of unskilled, uneducated people. The poor countries will retain a number of educated people to (hopefully) improve their situations, and the rich countries will not be flooded with the poor who need care and support. Balance is the answer.

  75. I work at an Engineering school in China - run by a top 25 foreign school. Our Chinese students are much like their counterparts elsewhere and know that there is not “one way” to live. Graduate and post graduate school, travel, and enjoying life are in their near and medium term goals - not marriage. Our staff, young educated people in their late 20s and early 30s are similar... as a childless PhD holder with a failed starter marriage 20 years ago, I also don’t feel the lack or guilt of not having a child. Our societal “duty” is to contribute and create value in whatever way we can - not to bear children.

  76. There are two issues here. One, human overpopulation of the world stressing the environment. 8 billion of us and counting some 150 to 200 million more each year. Like any reproducing living species we are reproducing to the point of breaking our resources. This will self limit population eventually. Disease, environmental destruction etal. The second is one not often debated in public, How to rebalance our population. There have been massive changes in human life spans and reproduction in the past 200 years, most in the last 120 when you look at India, Africa, China. Rebalancing a population and production where suddenly almost 50% of the populace is over 50 when it was 20% or less 50 years ago will require a lot of social change. Folks, we are no longer 75% farmers or manual laborers, it is rebalancing as I type.

  77. Wonderful news for a planet massively overpopulated. If only all those over-religious and poor parts of the world could start having fewer babies too!

  78. Over-population is only one aspect of our human-caused, existential global environmental disaster. Projections thru 2100 indicate that most global population growth will occur in North America and Africa, with most of that growth occurring in Africa. North America and Africa represent the extremes in resource consumption. While Africans consume very little/capita in relative terms, North Americans are enormous resource consumers. 20% of global citizens (including almost all Americans) consume 80% of the world's resources. Americans represent 4.2% of world population, yet we suck up 25-30% of resources. Not only do we consume 5 times our "share" on average, we shamefully WASTE most of the resources we produce. We WASTE 2/3 of our energy, including 75% of transportation energy. We WASTE half of our food. We will never reverse our destruction of the environment of Our Only Home until those of us in "developed" nations are willing to slash our over-consumption and WASTE of resources.

  79. Africa will add 3 billion people in the next 60 years The Americas and Europe will be basically unchanged in population or potentially down China will get much smaller And we really cannot meaningfully change any of this—it’s basically built into today’s numbers

  80. You are studiously avoiding 1/2 of the environmental equation. Number of people x lifestyle = environmental effect. We do need to change how we live, but unless we change the number of us living that way, we will overwhelm any progress we make thru population growth. This means confronting immigration and birth rates here in the west as non PC as that will be.

  81. Isn’t this reduction in births inevitable in a society which 30 years ago employed policies that would replace only one of two parents—i.e., isn’t this just simple math rather than some mystery? Even if the children have 2.1 babies to replace themselves absolute birth levels will remain low for 25 years. Nothing anyone can realistically do about it Immigration is their only answer

  82. I’m not seeing how having another kid is going to help me take care of my parents.

  83. That is because in our culture it is not assumed that children will care for their parents, unlike Asia. Their outlook is communal and ours is individual.

  84. The only thing that remains the same is change, but these figures are encouraging for the long term health of the planet. As the population of China ages it will have to find a creative way to support the pensioners. Only a central planned economy has the flexibility to address the surplus of pensioners compared to the younger working population. Hopefully, this will be done in a way that is humane rather than draconian, but the leadership is dominated by the elderly. It would be very easy for the Communist Party to appeal to the patriotism of its elder population to encourage them to continue to work part time in order to keep the system solvent. Encouraging part time work would also be a way to help address the problems from the threat of dementia. This will be easier to accomplish in China than in the West because there is a tradition of community spirit rather than individuality in Chinese culture.

  85. A low birth rate anywhere is good news for the planet.

  86. And that infertility epidemic from the pollution, tho.

  87. The authors of this absurd article treat the economy as if it is a massive ponzi scheme, where the only way to avoid "catastrophe" is for early participants (the elderly) to be supported by an ever increasing number of new participants (newborns). That's not how the economy works. And in any case, the dire consequences of endless human population growth is obvious to the NYT's readers, but apparently not to the authors.

  88. Please stop publishing articles about global low birth rates that frame it as a problem. Unchecked continued population growth— now that is a problem. The planet is literally drowning in the human population explosion over the last 100 years and at this point we should applaud those who decide not to have children. Whatever adaptations China and other countries will have to make to account for fewer working adults, they will make it. Now how about a new article focusing on how it’s ok not to have kids and the world will be better for it?

  89. @Boston It is a problem. To you want a church tract or a newspaper? It isn’t ONLY a problem of course, it is also a benefit. If we do not acknowledge the problems that result and ameliorate them, where does that leave us? Replacing forced abortions with mass murder of the elderly?

  90. Great news. Both for China and the planet. The only slim chance we have as a species of saving the world and ourselves is a population that drops to something that can be sustainably supported by the systems all life depends on. Currently it takes 1.6 earths to support the 7.8 billion humans. If that sounds like it can’t go on forever, you’re right. We are the reason there are a million species going extinct, that the ocean is filling with trash, that the polar ice is melting and on and on. Neither the right or the left is brave or honest enough to face the facts and confront over population. The idiot politicians and economists who push for the ponzi scheme of ever higher population on a finite planet need to be relegated to the dust bin of history. We should be working for a lower population here and helping others do it as well. China will go thru an adjustment period and in the end will benefit from fewer people.

  91. Best news I have read all day.

  92. The Chinese government is obviously incapable and too stuck in their old prejudices and biases to effectively reverse their own poor policies from decades ago. Every effort they have made is wasted due to stupidity and stubborness. That says a lot about where the government is headed under Xi. Good. The incompetent and calcified must always be allowed to fail out of their leadership positions, to be replaced by more flexible-thinking, smarter, kinder, and wiser people. This is progress.

  93. Overlooking the elephant in the room. Looking up the geologic Gothamberg event I came across the 7,000 y event where the human prodigy produced came from one male for every 17 women. Now this is curious, as modern times note male infertility is double what it was just a few decades ago. This report looks to blame modern life styles but there is the European Black Death that left men dead and women alive (for which they are still paying) due to the women's body being depleted in iron by childbearing. And that certainly couldn't be the case 7,000 y ago. Gobekli Tepe was already gone by 1,000 years then even if fertility rites held there. The current eye-catching explanation is that men were rampaging killers; I think that's the result, not the cause. I think men went after tribal women who were pregnant because their own weren't. And that possibly leads to an environmental cause??

  94. This is a problem? There are about 7.8 billion people in this planet, and approximately one in every five is Chinese. There doesn't appear to be a shortage unlike, say, the critically endangered black rhino, which has been decimated by illegal poaching.

  95. Somehow the idea of the most successful people on the face of the planet, by sheer numbers alone, having a crisis of too few children just isn't as serious a problem as you're making it out to be by injecting Western, Manhattan, standards. It is noteworthy, but it isn't anything to be alarmed about, because you Manhattan people think forever in your own terms, bounded by the Hudson and the East River running thru your left and right brains. Declining birthrate in China. OK. Got it. Where's the problem? Ever visited Hong Kong or Shanghai, and stood on a streetcorner and just watched? Thought so.

  96. These authors have no vision. Won't China be a better place if their population shrinks from 1,400,000,000 down to only 700,000,000? In fact wouldn't it be better if it dropped down to the population of the United States which is 330,000,000? Maybe even 200,000,000, the population of the USA when I was born. The two countries are the exact same size. There will be hardship reducing the population but won't a smaller population be a justifiable reward? This is the solution to global warming. But if the population drops, who will work in sweatshops making our cloths and assembling our smart phones?

  97. There are three sides to every story, the extreme left, the extreme right and reality. My religious fanatic mother told me the reason God created horrific things like earthquakes, floods, famine, genocide etc. was his natural way of birth control along with the rhyme method. The extreme left is convinced science can solve anything ie birth control, genetic engineering etc. The truth is in between. While China's one child policy did prevent my mother's hope ie mass starvation it did create other less horrific problems. The trick now is to mitigate the problems with fresh new ideas not from the religious right or the science is God left.

  98. Many great comments. The media has conditioned the public to believe that growth is not only good but necessary, when in fact it is a HUGE problem. One cubic meter of "stuff" growing 3% annually (for many an "ideal" or desired economic growth rate) over 3000 years would become the size of 100 million, one billion earths (sextillion earths)! This is not fake news - it's the power of exponential growth. The world's population has grown from about one billion to 7 billion over the last 100 years. At the same rate of growth, it will be about 50 billion in another hundred years. Does anyone truly believed an earth inhabited by 50 billion people is sustainable, or even possible? If one does, how about 350 billion people by the year 2220? That's where we are headed without changes. Both population growth and economic growth need to decline if life on earth is to be sustainable.

  99. @brian wegner And it didn't used to be this way. On February 26, 1972, the New York Times' Editorial Board said this: "A sharp and sudden drop in the child-bearing expectations of young wives offers some hope — though no assurance — that the United States may be able to stabilize its population in time to avoid seriously endangering what is left of the American environment."

  100. @brian wegner At this rate of growth, if you are 30 years old now, then in 50 years when you are 80, there will be another 25.5 BILLION people. I'm glad I won't be around to try to survive in that mess.

  101. Ah the good old days. The left once lead when it came to population and the environment. Now the agenda is ever higher immigration and population growth no matter what. They now give lip service to the environment but you can’t be for both higher population whether from births or immigration (from any source) and claim to care about the environment. They are mutually exclusive concepts.

  102. "That means China could soon see a shrinking population and a work force too small to support its pensioners." I thought the problem in the future was that the robots were going to end up doing all the work. You can't have both: robots doing all the work, and a work force too small to support its pensioners. If robots do all the work, they're the ones who will be supporting pensioners.

  103. China is spending 50% more on R&D in all areas, including a very high level in technology, medicine and science. It is expected that this will rise to over 200% of the US and EU R&D investment by 2040. Further, there are few farmers in China any longer who need the next generation for help. China is not agrarian any longer. The income from all the patents that china will own will dwarf the loss of labor income. This warning was propagated about Japan a decade ago. How are they doing? Less pressure on infrastructure, better leisure time, which 95% of us in the US don't know what it is, had lead to happier lives. This article may have been revived from some 18th century newspaper. The world is paying a price for abuse of earth resources by economic systems that require ever expand populations for their sustenance. So, will China be the next Japan? Lets hope for their sake, and ours. Happier, healthier and less wasteful, what novel turn in human history.

  104. In 2016, the United States' birthrate was 1.6 births per woman -- identical to that of China's fertility rate bemoaned in this article. The United States, too, has an "underdeveloped social safety net" which means that "most older adults rely heavily on their families to pay for health care, retirement, and other expenses." Readers of this article would do well to look at the situation in China not as "foreign people" with a "foreign problem," but instead to consider how the reality in China IS ACTUALLY the reality in the USA, too. I'm all for global population decline and degrowth. I think a declining birthrate is a good thing. But it does pose problems that we would do well to solve through a more robust social safety net: how do we care for our aging, our infirm, or our marginalized without relying on the Ponzi scheme that is population growth?

  105. Why is the lowering of population always considered a bad thing? Human beings are gradually destroying the earth - it would behoove us to figure out how we can reduce the number of people on the planet and not predict economic apocalypse every time a country's population falls.

  106. While this will have negative consequences in the short term, it's what the world needs most, fewer humans. Overpopulation is such a massively destructive problem, I can't see a shrinking population as being a bad thing. China will have to provide assistance for the elderly, something like the social security program we have only more effective, but I think they can manage that.

  107. I say Hooray! Let birthrates around the world continue to fall---along with the use and discarding of plastic, the huge amounts of pollution given off by cars, trucks, and planes, the burning of forests, etc. The Earth might be able to recover. Humans have ruined the planet. Let Nature reclaim some of it.

  108. Until humans learn to live sustainably for the planet and our fellow living creatures we share it with, I wish the media would stop framing lower birthrates in short term economic terms. Let's celebrate it. More time to have human values and technology evolve to solve our ecological destruction.

  109. China needs to immediately add an old age benefit like social security provides in the US. Although like in the US, it won’t allow old people to live an exciting and extravagant lifestyle, it would provide enough income to provide shelter, food and some services.

  110. @William McCain Yes, but you need a large base of younger workers in order to support social security for elders. That's the problem the US is looking at as well, as the baby boomer generation ages (and lives longer and longer lives).

  111. @William McCain Are you on US Social Security? My monthly benefit does not provide "enough income" for shelter, food, and some services.

  112. Only people that have a deep wish to have children should have them, and governments should not push women. There are people enough on this earth, and there are enough young and eager people in other parts of the world who would jump at the chance to work as nurses and caretakers in Chinese old people's homes in the future. Europe is an immigration area, so will China be in the future.

  113. We -- as a planet -- need to decide what our priorities are, and plan accordingly. If we want to have a livable home, we will need to get rid of fossil fuels and reduce (significantly) world population - not just stabilize it at the current number. That will require, for every country, a transitional period where we need to decide how a very large cohort of older people (who are living longer than 100 years ago) will live out their years without, in many cases, children to care for them. They will need help from governments -- pensions, health care, and (for many) assistance with housing, food, and long-term care. If our only focus is economic growth (fueled by ever-growing consumption), and a growing tax base to take care of the aforementioned cohort of older people, then we have taken the decision ultimately to kiss the planet goodbye. It will become unlivable. There is simply not enough arable land to feed the global population over the longer term. What do we value most? We need to answer that question. We also need to quit bashing women for making perfectly rational choices regarding marriage and family.

  114. A country's low birthrate is greatly beneficial to the world as a whole. Unfortunately, it is often very problematic for the country itself. I've long felt that the world owed a debt of gratitude to China for their one-child policy, which dramatically reduced the number of desperate people starving in the streets. Implementing it required harsh measures that led to some awful unintended consequences, which I do not disregard. But any country that wants to influence its population (increase it, stabilize it or reduce it) must make it possible for its citizens to live comfortably conforming to those expectations. Need lower reproduction? Address the needs of the elderly and promote education. Need more births? Make it easier for a family to live on one earner's income or make housing and childcare affordable. As it stands, most of us understand that the planet is over-populated, yet we want "all the other countries" to address it.

  115. I've spent many months in recent years in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. That country has been the poster child for the kind of dire warnings about a "looming crisis" because of low birth rates as well as economic stagnation. My impression is that Tokyo, and elsewhere I have gone, are doing just fine -- indeed, pretty much booming. Maybe not as much frantic growth as during the "boom" years of the 1960s-80s, but I (and most of the Japanese I've spoken with) think that's a good thing. Tokyo has a subway and rail system much, much better than anything in the U.S. The middle class is vast and growing, unlike here. Kids don't leave colleges with enormous debt. Everyone has health care of some sort. And about the aging of the workforce and implications for future human services -- I am confident the society will figure out ways to deal with it. It has dealt with problems and disruptions so much more difficult -- like how to manage a fast-growing population! Japan, of course, has problems -- the status of women, the huge migration from the countryside to the cities, transitioning better and quicker to green fuels. But a decline population? I don't think so. Japan has roughly 125 million people and is the size of California. Given that fact, it seems to me that a declining population in Japan (and similarly in China and elsewhere) is a godsend. So please, how about some stories/reporting about the benefits of a declining birthrate?

  116. Even a cursory look at the nations of the world shows that the declining population countries due to falling birth rates, far from being worse off are the most democratic, prosperous and desirable places to live. It’s why most of the worlds immigrants who come almost exclusively from over populated countries want to move to low birth rate nations, not the other way around. Nobody from the west is hiding in a shipping container to move to China. The reason for that is obvious.

  117. @M. Kaufman Completely agree. These stories are usually so dire (Crisis Ahead!) and don't mention the decrease in natural resource usage, diminished crowding, and potential decrease in global warming. They just feel like lazy reporting and a repeating of the same old tropes.

  118. @M. Kaufman The problem in Japan is that people are so overworked that they have no opportunity to build relationships and start families. That isn’t a case of people choosing to have fewer children, it’s a case of many people not being able to have children at all, and it’s a symptom of a major societal problem. -NW

  119. As the proportion of working population to retirees shrinks, maybe governments will have to decide to spend less on weapons and use the money to make up the deficit. If high waters continue to rise, there may arise problems with use of land, reduction of population may become a necessity instead of a choice.

  120. So, most countries have been running their economies on a Ponzi scheme in which younger people provide benefits to be consumed by those who got there first. Obviously the planet can't take it. This is unsustainable. Time to figure out a new paradigm. Fix the problems because this is the way that all of us need to go if any of us are going to survive.

  121. The world, or a nation, can have either short-term pain (a drop in "economic vitality" due to fewer workers) or long-term pain (due to running out of food or drinkable water after the environment is ravaged beyond the point of no return). This article's authors essentially seek to kick the can down the street: reckoning will come sooner or later. To quote John Fowles in his non-fiction book, "The Aristos": "If we insist that we are free to breed like rabbits, nature will see to it that we die like them."

  122. @PMN Totally agree, but I do wish the standard phrase would quit disparaging rabbits. It should really read "....those rabbits are breeding like humans!"

  123. Readers who cite Climate Change as a primary reason to praise China's falling population ought to remember that conspicuous consumption is one of the major causes of our current problems. This generation of Chinese, including those interviewed here, want cars, expensive homes and overseas vacations, in addition to Veblen Goods, such as Louboutin shoes. Such consumption adds to the ills of climate change.

  124. Declining birth rates no matter the country is encouraging news for the planet. Humans are by far the greatest source of greenhouse gases and clearly cannot restrain themselves as much of the world is so poor it is a luxury for them to worry about climate change. Our economists need to move away from concepts like global economic growth, GDP rates and worries about Middle East strife affecting oil prices and the broader global economy. Our economic models need to be based on sustainability and the price of goods and services need to take into account environmental costs. People should not have children unless they can readily afford them, educate them and prepare them for a challenging climate and survival future. Less is more.

  125. The rise of educated independent women in China will fuel much of the coming societal change. But it does not mean that this will happen outside political norms, as would be naively assumed by the usual oh so uneducated Americans who self-indulge in judging China by the seat of their pants with the usual annoying at best and disastrous as worse, self-righteous and biased attitude. If there is one this that is constant in Chinese society is that it changes and it can deal with it because it can evolve. Evolving does not mean that it becomes more like west. Much better that the west.

  126. This article fails to mention the driving force behind lower fertility rates. That force is women. No amount of financial incentive can persuade a woman to have one baby, or ten babies, if she doesn't want to, and if she has safe and affordable birth control. Women are the ones who will save the planet by having few, or no, children. Birth control should be made available world-wide for free instead of only to the affluent.

  127. @HarmlessHemp You are exactly right, and that scares me. As long as low birthrates are viewed as a "crisis" then I do not believe that women are safe. Governments might start with some nice incentives to procreate, but when that fails to work (it will fail, as you point out), I believe women will be denied reproductive choice. Hello, Handmaid's Tale.

  128. Do you have fields that need to be worked? Military or economic alliances you expect to solidify by marrying off your sons and daughters? On a more serious note, have you somehow not noticed that the Earth does not have the resources to support its current population but, whatever, just add another one or two people, what could go wrong? I have two children who I adore beyond measure, but they were born decades ago in a very different global village. As for the world's growing population of elderly, which I am part of, IT needs to get super-busy perfecting those robotic care-givers, we're gonna need them!

  129. This may be nature’s way of saying enough is enough. This is GOOD news. A declining human population is our only salvation.

  130. No "crisis" will occur with the falling birthrate. The streets will be less crowded. There will be fewer people starving. Life will be more bearable. If the powers that be want people to have more children, then make that possible by paying your workers. Don't make women the scapegoat saying that they're no longer interested in having children because they are more educated. Women still want children as they always have. The difference is that hardly anyone can afford them with both spouses having to work full time. Pay the populace instead of having the upper crust keep all the money to themselves and you will have a balanced, healthy situation for all.

  131. I say the same thing about the worry that some states are losing population. Their Infrastructure doesn’t need to be expanded. They don’t need additional borrowing to pay for new roads, new schools, new parks, more public employees and the like, and existing debt can be paid down. Their housing can be improved and become more reasonably priced. But businesses that get rich because of a growing population will suffer.

  132. The lower birth rate in China and hopefully India some day would be a good thing since the World population has doubled in the last 50 years and the planet cannot support growth at that rate. Climate change will leave millions moving about the globe in search of both food and water. It's time to reduce populations world-wide.

  133. This is the second story in the Times I've read in the last couple of weeks that portrays a declining birth rate as bad news for a society. Just the opposite is true. I'm a trained Biologist, but it's pretty obvious for anyone who reads the news that the human species has overrun it's ecological niche and is in the process of destroying it. I know enough about ecology to know that this kind of situation NEVER turns out well for the species in question. We are supposed to be intelligent, but we often behave like lemmings. Let's use our critical thinking skills and celebrate stories like this so more societies make this required demographic transition - before it's too late.

  134. Oh the irony that "childless China" has a record of literally trafficking female infants and toddlers to the West, and unsuspecting families wanting to adopt. Every other month or so, there is a new revelation of baby brokerage, stolen children, or unethical adoptions originating in this very nation. Meanwhile, an entire generation of transracial adoptees are now adult women, living with the emotional wounds and early trauma of being separated from their birth parents. For every successful search and tearful birth family reunion, there are thousands of broken families grieving for their lost daughters. Perhaps one day, China will follow South Korea's example and being the truth and reconciliation process, with apologies to those who have been harmed, and support for those who rightfully search for their history and origins.

  135. What is rarely mentioned in articles of falling birthrates and it's effect on economies and satety-net programs is how sound immigration policies can off-set many of the negative impacts of a graying population. The inflow of generally young immigrants provides workers & boosts the tax base to keep retirement & health care systems solvent. The upside of lower birthrates is that it could make increasing climate migration a more manageable issue if done well and humanely rather than what is happening now in the US and in former eastern block countries. Here in the US we're either locking migrants up in infested jails, stealing children from their parents or feeding them to the wolves in Mexico, a country which is struggling on it's own. In eastern bloc countries their towns and rural areas are dying out because the young are leaving and at the same time these governments are refusing to take in any migrants that could revitalize these areas all because of fear politics.

  136. Glad they are back on track. Now the rest of the world needs to follow their lead.

  137. Media coverage of this phenomenon is very confusing. We hear that overpopulation is a grave threat to humanity re climate change, water scarcity, meat production, and global instability. We hear that countries including China, Japan, the US, and Germany all have falling birthrates that will place a enormous strain on the welfare state. But then we hear that the coming "automation apocalypse" will render thousands jobless and redundant, precipitating a new crisis, with UBI a possible solution. Those on the left crow about "demographic change" and celebrate the end of the white majority in America. But that's good because, like Meghan and Harry said, having more than 2 kids is irresponsible. Then we hear that companies are desperate for workers, and need to increase immigration or we'll tank our economy, so we have no choice but to increase immigration. The other wrinkle in this, to me, is that lack of education and reliance on the welfare state has enabled the poorest among us, both here and globally, to reproduce at much higher rates than the educated and affluent, who are partly affluent because they forego having children, which have become a form of "consumption." The result there is that low-skill, low-education populations around the world are some of the only people at "replacement" rate, which suggests to me we could even face a "genetic brain drain" if you will. I think we may be incentivizing the wrong people, and need paid parental leave, child care, etc.

  138. @B Samuels "Low-skill, low-education populations" are not genetically inferior, as you imply. People are people. The Earth cannot sustain the number of people on the planet as it is (with their current levels and kinds of consumption), so fewer people would be a good idea. As a global society we need to make opportunities for education, training, and employment equally available to all. Your talk of "incentivizing the wrong people" to have children is frightening in its moral blindness.

  139. @B Samuels I agree! Any suggestions that we cease incentivizing the having of ever more children by the perennially poor seems to be greeted by howling from the “progressives” that this is racist, etc. It is definitely not realistic, but these belief systems persist despite the fact that the outcome tends to be handing power to the likes of DT.

  140. @B Samuels That's a pretty big leap you make there. You wrote that if "low-skill, low-education populations" reproduce more, then "we could even face a "genetic brain drain"". Eugenicists have been arguing along these lines for 150 years. Luckily, we've eventually defeated them when their sick beliefs turn into policy. The fix for social mobility is good education for low income people. Believe it or not, talented people are sometimes born poor.

  141. It have a generational downside but a China of 800 million will be a far mire stable and prosperous nation than one of 1.3 billion just as a US of 250 million would be ore prosperous than one of 400 or 500 million.

  142. The "looming demographic crisis," isn't the threat of "under-population," but rather OVER-population. If older people are depending on younger people for support, that's a pyramid scheme - and unsustainable.

  143. Thought experiment: So if there are 14.6 million annually, multiply by 20 = 292 MM, and so in 37 years the most vital work force aged 18 to 37 will only be about 20% of the population. Perhaps less if birth rate continues to decline. Can you imagine a world where the 'young adults' is a tiny portion of the population and everyone is else is old ? I think it's a demographic disaster.

  144. I suggest that free cigarettes and free buffet meals be offered to everyone over the age of 55. As a result of bad health, many older people will die earlier and relieve the burden from those who are younger.

  145. This is exactly why China will ultimately fail to achieve power parity with the United States. You have to have population growth to have economic growth. Countries like the U.S., who also have a birth rate below replacement continue to grow through immigration. Although the U.S. government is anti-immigration right now, that will change. In ten or fifteen years, the U.S., Europe, and China will all be competing with each other to attract immigrants (sounds crazy right now, but watch, it will happen). You need young workers to fund social programs, be it China's state welfare, European social systems, or medicare and Social Security in the U.S. No one with talent and education from India or South America or Africa will choose to move to China when they can go to Europe or the U.S., they just won't. China is going to sink back to third world status as an unstable and very poor country by 2050 or 2060. All because of their population crisis. And, frankly, it's already too late for them to do anything about it. The one child policy was always an economic disaster in the making, from the day they instituted it.

  146. So many of the comments here in the Times are very appropriate. There will be short term pain for the older generation when there are not enough younger work force to sustain the current level of economic growth and take care of the needs of the older population. But that expectation of unending economic growth based on consumption coupled with the expectation of increasing life span without talking about environmental sustainability is just not plausible. Of course all big corporations would like to have endless supplies of consumers because that is how they make profits. But they really don't care the future of our species and this little very fragile planet. Had they cared, there would have been a different economic model based on different criteria. It is time that we expect our political leaders to discuss world population growth as an urgent issue and find solutions to resolve this issue globally. In fact this time has been way past due for decades. My 27 year old daughter has decided not to have children of her own. The 1st reason she cited is population overgrowth. And I am fine with her decision. in fact I admire her for her altruism even though I really love children and enjoy them tremendously. Maybe the baby boomers have lived a lifestyle of depleting the earth and the mennenial generation will figure out how to reverse that. In fact that might be the only long term solution for the longevity of our species.

  147. @ami -- Don't assume that all baby boomers were indifferent to the ecological costs of having children. I am in my 60s now and decided against having children back in the 70s, when I was in my 20s. My main reason was worry about overpopulation and ecological damage (we didn't know about climate change then, but we knew that overpopulation would be a disaster for the environment). There are a lot of baby boomers who have been concerned about these issues--and have acted on their concerns--for many decades now.

  148. China's history, policies, and social structures have always been xenophobic. I've seen this upfront and personnel as a foreigner visiting China. A low birthrate will collectively necessitate the requirement for more and more Non-Chinese to immigrate to China to populate their industries, especially the service industry (i.e. clerks, maids, janitors, etc, etc), to maintain their economic engine. China is heading for massive social disruptions as their industries depend more and more on foreigners and/or Ethnic minorities currently living under Chinese Rule. (i.e., Bonan, Bouyei, Blang, Dai, Daur, Deang, Dong, Dongxiang, Dulong, Ewenki, Gaoshan, Kazak, Tajik, Tatar, Tibetan, Tu, Tujia, Uigur, Wa, Xibe, Yao, Yi, Yugur, Zhuang) The Han people make up over 90% of the China's population and control, manage, and police the country. The ethnic minorities are treated as 2nd Class Citizens and do not have nor receive the citizenship benefits as the Han. A low Han birthrate in China means massive social upheavals within the next 10-20 years, resulting in chaos. Irronically, what's happening in China has been happening in America for a long time. Whereas Chinese Hans are terrorising their ethnic minorities; American White Christians have been terrorizing non whites (black, brown, yellow and red) for the last 200+ years. Consequently, because of low white birth rates they will become an ethnic minority within the next 20-30 years.

  149. The biggest threat to human survival is over population. World population has been accelerating the last 100 years. We have doubled our population in just 55 years to 7.5 billion. We are still exploiting and "conquering" the natural world instead of co-existing and learning from it. To get population growth under sustainable control, the stupidity and ignorance of some religions needs major reforms. There should be a "Planned Parenthood" clinic on every street corner all over the world. Same is true for capitalism- it needs a lot more supervision and reform. Climate change may be what finally stops accelerating population and it will be ugly. Bravo to the Chinese.

  150. Religion is a major cause of our continuing over population crisis. We have a serious religious leadership issue, be it Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals, Islamists, and others whose structure depends on the outsized growth of their followers. “Go ye Forth and Multiply” and “Allah will Provide” and any of the other inanities they preach are prescriptions for utter and total disaster for human life. They are every bit as complicit in climate change as CO2 emissions and probably more sinister. Population decline in China or anywhere is very welcome news.

  151. Government is worried about it because they need wage slaves to keep their economic machinery going. Good for Chinese, they have become smart enough not to fall into this trap - We should all learn from them. I have no kids, don't plan any, have significant chunk of savings and can actually go to a job without worrying what will happen if I get fired the next day.

  152. @VT There are plenty of people with children that have enough savings to not have to worry about what will happen if they get fired the next day. You make it seem so binary.

  153. @kj there may be ‘plenty’ but it is certainly not ‘most’. There are things government can do to encourage population growth, including investments in affordable housing, education through college, and healthcare. Countries are not doing these things and would rather spend their funds keeping the older generations content than support the next generation. Children are simply too expensive in the current economy of high priced housing, education, health that continue to skyrocket year over year while low wages that have hardly budged in decades.

  154. The "economy" is an artificial thing, our planet is not! Human overpopulation is very harmful to the Earth.

  155. This article is lacking gender perspective. While I do agree some of the factors listed in the article influence China’s decreasing population; it completely ignores the fact that most women fetuses were aborted and now the “price” of a wife is way higher then before. Women were despised and now they’re the thing China’s missing the most.

  156. John Q. Public needs to stop breeding for a good long while. Yes of course the economic boogiemen and women will cry foul and will Chicken Little us into an economic and retirement fund crisis that will result, but what choice do we have when in an article in this same newspaper today just covered the notion that NYC will need a 119 billion dollar wall to keep the rising seawater out? What an absurd amount of money by the way and what I nice touch by the Army Corps of Engineers to cap that estimate at 119 billion and not 120. I guess that makes the quote that much mote believable!

  157. Dropping birthrates are happening everywhere for developed countries (Japan, Europe, US), it's an expected outcome, less dependence on manual labor, including those of their children. Children are also ridiculously expensive for countries with poor safety nets (education and healthcare costs are insane). Also something no one ever talks about: the regret of having children. One can love their children but also regret the choice. It's taboo for parents to talk about this but more people are anonymously coming out of the closet about it. Sleep deprivation, enormous costs, pressure to keep money flowing, having to keep a constant eye, you're basically on call for someone 24/7. There is no way 100% of humans were designed for this job. It's time to break free of this ridiculous notion that you must have children, just because your parents did it doesn't mean you have to. There are plenty of abandoned babies and orphanages that don't get enough care or protection.

  158. @M. Paire Raising children are as expensive as you want to make it.

  159. People who worry about this sort of thing are clueless about the climate crisis. The world is going to be struggling with more serious problems.

  160. All of those who wish to overturn Roe v. Wade should remember that it simply guarantees a right to privacy in matters of reproductive choice. Without Roe the government would be free to engage in the reproductive manipulations used in China. Worse yet the government would be free to require genetic manipulations to avoid costly genetic diseases or perceived undesirable traits. Opponents of Roe should be very careful what they pray for.

  161. There's too many people in this world. We should be CELEBRATING low birth rates!

  162. The Chinese one child per couple has been rescinded by their controllers to their regret. The trap is wealth. The parents are greedy and will willingly trade flesh for money like everyone else in this world given the opportunity. Finally, the golden ring solves a big population problem.

  163. This is going to catch up with them sooner or later, I think.

  164. Good! I hope birth rates drop drastically across all countries, demographics, race, etc. Women should declare a moratorium on producing and raising babies until they are fully supported by society, men share equally in child rearing and house work, governments and corporations breakdown misogynistic structures, and women have complete autonomy over their bodies and lives- free from abuse by men. until then, women of the world: UNITE!

  165. China’s lower birth rate is a wonderful thing for the planet. There are too many people. We have become callous as the number of deaths from climate, guns and war are too numerous- we can’t name all the people and events - they pile up higher and higher until they are numbers and not lives of value. We close our doors to immigration, we punish the poor - we do more and more terrible things to maintain our own lives. You are not really pro life if you are pro war or anti immigration or hate taxes.

  166. This is irresponsible reporting that does not help in the long run. While this is a serious challenge for China (and other countries with the same issue) in the next few generations a voluntary decline in birth rate is the only hope for a mutual survival of humanity and the earth. This headline should have read “Chinese decline in birth rate due to female empowerment and economic growth poses challenges but provides hope for humanity in the long run.”

  167. Birth rates are declining world wide. Very few countries even reach replacement fertility rates anymore. India is barely at the replacement level, and China is well below replacement levels.Yet the world's population still increases. Why? Mostly because people are refusing to die. As health care improves, particularly in developing countries, infant mortality declines and people live longer. So despite sub-replacement fertility, the population continues to rise. I suspect, however, that there are limits to this phenomenon. Life spans may increase, but we are not likely to become immortal anytime soon.

  168. The world population goes up a net 82 million per year (Africa goes up by >30 million). That’s another 1 billion every 12 years. We are a long ways from below replacement birth rates.

  169. In 1800 there were less than one billion people in the entire world. China's population of 1.4 billion is still rising after nearly 50 years of a one child policy. The World is out of balance. The idea that we need a higher human birth rate anywhere in the world is based on old economic concepts that perceives nations preparing for nationalistic war. An aging population will present serious problems for the coming world, but If we think those problems can be fixed with a growing birth rate to replace an overpopulated world, we are not actually thinking about our planet or the time we are in. Think again.

  170. This is a very good thing! Population control is our only hope against climate change.

  171. Well, there's always Bokanovsky's Process.

  172. Don’t forget to mention the thousands of men who cannot marry because under the one child policy females were aborted or killed. There is a giant imbalance. When the single men get old they will not have families to help them—Only robots or immigrants.

  173. This is great news. If only it could be spread to India, Nigeria, and a few hundred other countries.

  174. @Jim S. There is a lot of good news about India as well.. So what is clear is that both China and India (in a different way than China as it didn't have the one child policy) decreased growth rate significantly in a reasonable short time purely from economic growth which came also with education improvement both of which created decreasing birth rates! Current pressing problem is not population (cannot change overnight) but ignoring climate change which requires fast changing policies! Look at how UK now produces more energy from renewable than others which is a social/political/technical solution that can be done by all! Especially by the so called developed countries (China and India are doing better than most), even faster than what we have been doing. Go tell your decision makers "YES WE CAN!"

  175. This is excellent news. With human population reaching 9 billion, we need to stop overpopulation.

  176. According to the logic of this article and the economists it cites, every country needs perpetual population growth. Can you foresee any problems with that plan? As the earth supports 7.5 billion, then 10 billion, then 15 billion people? And on ad infinitum. Only too few people could ever pose a problem; never too many??

  177. @Triffid Every “need” is contingent. In this case we need continuous population growth to support our current economic systems which include support for elderly persons for 20-40 non-working years. What does that tells you? Unsustainable trends will not continue.

  178. No problem. Just create an enhanced social security and Medicare program. Given the Chinese savings rate, they can easily afford it.

  179. There is little or no examination of the hard truth that China will not be able to sustain any population growth in the future. China’s long standing environmental problems will need to be addressed and only lower population numbers will allow this to happen. What is not being addressed enough is the fact that the countries which have the lowest birthrates also the highest standards of living, the most thriving economies and good living standards. These are the nations that are attracting the most educated and accomplished people. Nations with high birthrates are seeing their educated and skilled members trying to leave.

  180. The assumption that the economic effects of lower population will be negative could be entirely wrong. Automation is just now expanding to a much higher level. The know-how to expand it is accelerating. Having a job is becoming a privilege, the way to get to wealth. Smaller population is the only way out of this mess, other than mass starvation and disease (the currently chosen paths). What a species.

  181. @Emory Excellent comment for severe restriction of immigration to America. A large segment is low or unskilled, and will have extreme difficulty in assimilating into the emerging American technological future.

  182. @R Nobody adjusts as well as immigrants who fought to get here. Oh, maybe you assume they are unskilled because of genetics.

  183. I'm always somewhat astonished to read articles like this because the assumption seems to be that an increasing population is always desirable. It isn't desirable to the planet and our resources. While there may be social and societal implications to so many young people not getting married and having children, there may be some benefits, which are never discussed. With automation and robots becoming more and more common, they may be a lesser need for workers than implied. The more difficult part is a transition period, when few workers are supporting larger number of retirees.

  184. @dairyfarmersdaughter. Thank you. If population increases are necessary to support the oldest among us, where does it end? That model is unsustainable, and we need to find another way.

  185. Journalists who purport to write articles on economic matters should show an understanding of one simple, fundamental fact: a sovereign nation that prints it's own currency will NEVER run out of money. So while it may be accurate to say China's pension fund will run out of money, there is absolutely nothing to prevent the Chinese government from stepping in, printing more money, and making up the deficit. The only real question in pursuing such a policy is whether it would cause inflation to spiral out of control. And given that rates of inflation have been dropping throughout most of the world over the last few decades, that eventuality seems quite unlikely.

  186. The benefits of a growing population have its limits. The maxim that population growth is essential for economic prosperity is a Ponzi scheme that cannot continue indefinitely. The world needs to develop better family and social infrastructural networks that are more economically sustainable to help its growing elderly and vulnerable population. Using population growth as essential is an irresponsible and short-sighted mentality that rivals the selfishness displayed by the climate deniers.

  187. The last thing we need is more people. This is a good thing, it's the economic system that is broken. 7 billion people are way over what the earth can handle and is the main reason for climatic change. An economic system that is dependent on population growth is a system the eventually means the end of the human race.