Still have over 900 million ‘quality’ workforce, says China with India soon to become most populous country

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbi reacted to reports of India’s population soon to cross that of China’s, saying that “population dividend does not depend on quantity but also quality”. Representational image

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbi reacted to reports of India’s population soon to cross that of China’s, saying that “population dividend does not depend on quantity but also quality”. Representational image
| Photo Credit: AP

China on Wednesday sought to downplay India soon overtaking it as the world’s most populous nation, saying that it still has a “quality” workforce of close to 900 million people to provide a strong impetus for development.

According to the latest United Nations Population Fund data, India’s population is pegged to reach 142.86 crore against China’s 142.57 crore by the middle of 2023.

Asked for his reaction to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here: “I want to tell you that population dividend does not depend on quantity but also quality”.

The population is important and so is the talent, he said about China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States.

“China’s population is over 1.4 billion. Those in the working age is close to 900 million and that group of populations is 10.5 years of education on average,” he said.

Mr. Wang also said China has taken active measures to deal with the ageing population.

“As Premier Li Qiang pointed out our population dividend has not disappeared and our talent dividend is booming and the impetus is strong for development,” Mr. Wang said.

According to a new UNFPA report, 25% of India’s population is in the age group of 0-14 years, 18% in the 10 to 19 age group, 26% in the age bracket of 10 to 24 years, 68% in 15 to 64 years age group, and 7% above 65 years.

‘High-calibre workforce)

In March, Premier Li Qiang while addressing the media after he took over the post said, “When assessing demographic dividend, we shall not just look at the sheer size of the population but also look at the scale of high-calibre workforce.” On China’s worsening demographic crisis due to falling birth rates and an increasing old age population, Mr. Li said China has nearly 900 million working-age population and 15 million people join the workforce annually, he noted.

More than 240 million people have received higher education in China, and the average length of education received by newcomers into the workforce has increased to 14 years, he said.

China’s demographic crisis deepened in 2022 as its population entered a negative phase with the birth rate declining by 8.50 lakh people to 1.4118 billion.

China’s overall population declined by 850,000 people year-on-year to 1.4118 billion in 2022, putting the natural growth rate at negative 0.6 per 1,000 people, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in January this year.

According to the National Health Commission at the end of 2020, there were 264 million people over the age of 60 in mainland China, and that total is projected to surge to 400 million and account for more than 30 per cent of China’s population by 2035.

China’s demographic crisis was largely attributed to the decades of One-China policy implemented by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to control the population.

China’s concern at present is not simply a declining population, which was accentuated by the decades-old one Child, scrapped in 2016 but a rapidly ageing population. As per the revised policy, Chinese could have three children.

China implemented a third-child policy in May of 2021 and rolled out a series of stimulus measures to boost population growth. A number of cities, provinces and regions across the country have rolled out incentive policies such as issuing subsidies to families with a second or third child.

According to the NBS announcement, the country registered about 9.56 million new-borns last year, down from 10.62 million in 2021.

China’s birth rate stood at 6.77 births per 1,000 people in 2022, down from 7.52 in 2021.

China’s total population size peaked in 2022, much earlier than expected, which means the country’s population will maintain negative growth from 2023 or enter an era of negative growth, Cai Fang, former deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said previously.

Yuan Xin, a professor from the Institute of Population and Development at Nankai University’s School of Economics, told the official media in January that in 2022 negative population growth is the inevitable result of the country’s long-term low fertility rate, and China’s population has entered an era of zero growth.

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