China’s population is expected to peak at around 1.45 billion in 2050, the latest official data has revealed, marking a shift from earlier estimates following the easing of the one-child policy.
Worryingly for the government, China will go through a “key transitional period” between 2021 and 2030 when the country will witness a decrease in the working age population, said the national population development plan for 2016-2030 released by the State Council, the country’s cabinet.
By UN estimates, India is likely to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in the next decade and it will continue to be ahead of China by 2050.
“As of 2015, China's population was 1.375 billion,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, quoting new data from the State Council.
India was around 1.3 billion the same year.
In 2016, China allowed all married couples to have two children following an easing of the stringent one-child policy in 2013, which allowed couples to have a second child if either parent was a single child.
The report said that besides a decrease in the working age population, China will witness other population-related phenomenon: More elderly people, continuing population migration and increasingly diverse family patterns.
“China's basic national condition of a large population will not fundamentally change. The population pressure on economic and social development will not fundamentally change. The tensions between population and resources and environment will not fundamentally change,” the plan said.
According to UN data, people aged 60 and older accounted for 12.3% of the world's population in 2015, and will increase to 16.5% by 2030. China will see a much greater increase, from 16.1% to 25.3% by 2030.
The plan said: “The country will adhere to the family planning policy as a basic state policy, and fully implement the two-child policy to promote balanced population development, according to the plan.”
It added, “Measures will be taken to promote urbanisation, improve policies on population movement, address the problem of an ageing population, promote women's development, and enhance protection of minors and the disabled.”
According to China's 13th Five-Year Plan, it aims to address challenges brought on by the ageing population by “enhancing employability, providing more elderly care and products as well as strengthening protection of their rights and interests”.
Xinhua reported that China also wants to increase its citizens' average life expectancy to 77.3 by 2020 and 79 by 2030, up from 76.34 in 2015, according to the Healthy China 2030 blueprint released by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council in October.