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

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China’s Aging Population Problem

The one-child policy defined China’s demographic transition for over three decades.

But to combat an aging population and declining birthrates, the government scrapped the policy for a new two-child policy in 2016. Despite this massive change, China still faces a growing demographic crisis.

The above animated population pyramid from James Eagle looks at the distribution of China’s population by age group since 1950, with projections up to the year 2100.

How the One-Child Policy Created a Gender Imbalance

Until 2016, the Chinese government strictly enforced the one-child policy since 1979 with hefty fines for any breach of rules. According to the government, the policy reduced 400 million births over the years.

However, it also led to sex-selective abortions due to a deep-rooted cultural preference for boys. As a result, China’s gender balance tilted, with a sex ratio of 111 males to 100 females in the population aging from 0 to 4 years old in 2020.

Often termed “the missing women of China”, this shortage of women is expected to worsen over time. According to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects, China is projected to have around 244 million fewer women than men in 2050.

Additionally, the country faces another impending consequence of the one-child policy—a rapidly aging population.

Why China’s Population is Aging

In 2020, China’s fertility rate—the number of children a woman is expected to have over her lifetime—stood at 1.3.

Generally, fertility rates drop as economies develop. However, China’s fertility rate is now lower than that of the U.S. (1.64 in 2020) and on par with countries like Japan and Italy, both of which are facing aging populations. Consequently, fewer newborns are entering the population, while many in the workforce approach retirement.

Most Chinese workers retire by age 60. Here’s how China’s retirement-age population is expected to shape up by the year 2100:

Year60+ Population% of Total Population
198074,899,3857.5%
2000129,460,64810.0%
2021258,371,81017.9%
2050485,489,06634.6%
2070454,270,45836.1%
2100402,780,97237.8%

In 2021, people aged 60 and over made up nearly one-fifth of the Chinese population. As the country’s population begins declining around 2030, over 30% of all Chinese people are expected to be in this age group.

China’s aging population threatens long-term economic growth as its workforce shrinks and low fertility rates result in fewer newborns that would later enter the working-age population. Fewer working people means lower overall consumption, a higher burden on elderly care, and slowing economic growth.

So, how will China respond to the oncoming crisis?

The Three-child Policy

According to the 2020 national census, Chinese mothers gave birth to 12 million children in 2020—the lowest number of births since 1949.

In response to these results, the government passed a new law allowing each couple to have up to three children. Despite the change, the high cost of raising a child may deter couples from having a third child.

It remains to be seen how the three-child policy helps combat China’s demographic crisis and which other policies the government chooses to deploy.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Markets

Ranked: The Top Economies in the World (1980‒2075)

We provide a historical and predictive overview of the top economies in the world, including projections all the way to 2075.

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top economies in the world through 2075

Visualizing the Top Economies in the World

According to a recent report from Goldman Sachs, the balance of global economic power is projected to shift dramatically in the coming decades.

In the graphic above, we’ve created a bump chart that provides a historical and predictive overview of the world’s top 15 economies at several milestones: 1980, 2000, 2022, and Goldman Sachs projections for 2050 and 2075.

Projections and Highlights for 2050

The following table shows the projected top economies in the world for 2050. All figures represent real GDP projections, based on 2021 USD.

RankCountryReal GDP in 2050 (USD trillions)
1🇨🇳 China$41.9
2🇺🇸 US$37.2
3🇮🇳 India$22.2
4🇮🇩 Indonesia$6.3
5🇩🇪 Germany$6.2
6🇯🇵 Japan$6.0
7🇬🇧 UK$5.2
8🇧🇷 Brazil$4.9
9🇫🇷 France$4.6
10🇷🇺 Russia$4.5
11🇲🇽 Mexico$4.2
12🇪🇬 Egypt$3.5
13🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$3.5
14🇨🇦 Canada$3.4
15🇳🇬 Nigeria$3.4

A major theme of the past several decades has been China and India’s incredible growth. For instance, between 2000 and 2022, India jumped eight spots to become the fifth largest economy, surpassing the UK and France.

By 2050, Goldman Sachs believes that the weight of global GDP will shift even more towards Asia. While this is partly due to Asia outperforming previous forecasts, it is also due to BRICS nations underperforming.

Notably, Indonesia will become the fourth biggest economy by 2050, surpassing Brazil and Russia as the largest emerging market. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state, and currently has the fourth largest population at 277 million.

The Top Economies in the World in 2075

The following table includes the underlying numbers for 2075. Once again, figures represent real GDP projections, based on 2021 USD.

RankCountryReal GDP in 2075 (USD trillions)
1🇨🇳 China$57.0
2🇮🇳 India$52.5
3🇺🇸 US$51.5
4🇮🇩 Indonesia$13.7
5🇳🇬 Nigeria$13.1
6🇵🇰 Pakistan$12.3
7🇪🇬 Egypt$10.4
8🇧🇷 Brazil$8.7
9🇩🇪 Germany$8.1
10🇬🇧 UK$7.6
11🇲🇽 Mexico$7.6
12🇯🇵 Japan$7.5
13🇷🇺 Russia$6.9
14🇵🇭 Philippines$6.6
15🇫🇷 France$6.5

Projecting further to 2075 reveals a drastically different world order, with Nigeria, Pakistan, and Egypt breaking into the top 10. A major consideration in these estimates is rapid population growth, which should result in a massive labor force across all three nations.

Meanwhile, European economies will continue to slip further down the rankings. Germany, which was once the world’s third largest economy, will sit at ninth behind Brazil.

It should also be noted that China, India, and the U.S. are expected to have similar GDPs by this time, suggesting somewhat equal economic power. As a result, how these nations choose to engage with one another is likely to shape the global landscape in ways that have far-reaching implications.

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