China News Agency, Beijing, February 16th: How does China find new demographic opportunities?

  ——Interview with Du Peng, Vice President of China Population Association and Vice President of Renmin University of China

  China News Agency reporter Peng Dawei Kan Feng

  On the eve of this year's Spring Festival, a group of statistical data about China's population sparked heated public opinion: By the end of 2022, China's population has decreased by 850,000 compared with the end of the previous year. This is the first negative population growth in China in the past 61 years.

  Population is a key variable affecting economic and social development, and an important factor affecting comprehensive national strength and national security.

When the world's most populous country ushered in negative population growth for the first time, is China's demographic dividend disappearing?

What impact will this negative growth have on China's economic and social development?

How will China find new opportunities in the future global human resources structure?

China News Agency "China Focus Face to Face" invited Du Peng, vice president of the Chinese Population Association and vice president of Renmin University of China, to give an interpretation.

Excerpts from the interview are as follows:

After "negative growth", China's demographic dividend is still

China News Agency reporter: What does "negative population growth" mean?

Will China officially enter the cycle of "long-term negative population growth"?

Du Peng:

Negative population growth refers to the symbolic change that the total population begins to decrease, which stems from the decline in fertility rate.

In the early 1990s, China’s total fertility rate dropped to 2.1. 2.1 is also known as the generation replacement level, that is, if it is lower than the replacement level, it means that the brakes on population growth have been stepped on, and sooner or later there will be negative population growth. .

Therefore, China's negative population growth started 30 years ago, and it is only in 2022 that intuitive data show that it has truly entered the stage of negative population growth.

  It should be noted that the negative population growth in China in 2022 will also be accompanied by the event that the birth population will be less than 10 million for the first time.

Observing history, China's birth population was close to 30 million in 1963, and it was still above 15 million 10 years ago. In 2022, it dropped to 9.56 million.

In the next few decades, China may be in a state of negative population growth, it's just a matter of speed.

China News Agency "China Focus Face to Face" invited Du Peng (right), vice president of the Chinese Population Association and vice president of Renmin University of China, to give an interpretation.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Tian Yuhao

China News Agency reporter: What benefits have China's development achievements gained in its population structure?

Is the "demographic dividend" really diminishing?

Du Peng:

Our demographic dividend still exists.

Demographic dividend is an economic concept, it not only depends on the population structure, the more critical factor is whether the population opportunity window can be fully utilized.

Before the reform and opening up, China's labor force was very abundant, but this was not the main reason for China's economic development later.

The main reason is that the reform and opening up itself has fully released the advantages of China's population size and structure, which has created a demographic dividend.

We say that the demographic dividend still exists today, based on three reasons:

  First, the number of Chinese labor force is still very large.

By 2022, China's working-age population aged 16-59 will reach 876 million, and the scale is still huge.

  Second, China is transforming from a large country of human resources to a large country of human capital.

Most of China's more than 800 million laborers are well-educated, and the average number of years of education received by people over the age of 15 has increased to nearly 11 years.

In 2022, the number of college graduates in China will reach 10.76 million, while China's new employment population will be around 13 million a year. If full employment is achieved, most of the newly employed population will be highly educated.

The number of our labor force may slowly decline in the next few years, but the quality of the labor force is improving, which provides us with a very good opportunity to make full use of the huge high-quality labor force.

  Third, China has entered a new stage of development, and its systems and mechanisms are being further improved, which can continuously promote a better match between labor supply and employment demand.

In the process of promoting urbanization, the surplus agricultural labor force is further transferred to cities and towns, realizing a more effective allocation of human resources.

  Therefore, it must be noted that we still have a large labor force, a better quality structure of the labor force, and a more complete mechanism to make the high-quality labor force more closely integrated with economic and social development, so the demographic dividend still exists.

Why are some young people unwilling to have children when the policy is relaxed?

China News Service reporter: In August last year, the National Health and Medical Commission published an article saying that low birth rate has become the most important risk affecting the balanced development of China's population.

What are the "risks" here?

Du Peng:

After negative population growth, on the one hand, the total population, especially the labor force, is declining, and on the other hand, the population is aging. Especially in the next ten years, the aging of China's population will show an accelerated trend.

  "Few births" is the main driver of negative population growth. To solve this problem, we still need to pay attention to whether the fertility rate can be effectively improved in the next few decades.

This "uplift" is not to return to the state of ten or twenty years ago, but to prevent it from falling further, and at the same time, to enable people who have the desire to bear children to fully realize their desire to bear children.

  If we cannot solve the related factors leading to the reduction of birth population as soon as possible in the next 5-10 years, the negative population growth may enter the process of acceleration.

In the long run, although population growth will always enter a stage of negative growth, we still need to strive to avoid a sharp decline in the fertility rate and a long-term slump in the number of births. This is conducive to the long-term balanced development of the population.

Data map: Medical staff look after babies.

Photo by Sun Ying

China News Agency reporter: In recent years, China has continuously adjusted and optimized its fertility policy to release its fertility potential.

Then, after the policy adjustment, why did the birth population not rise but fall instead?

Why are some young people reluctant to have children these days?

Du Peng:

There are many factors behind the decline in the fertility rate.

First, after the popularization of social security, pensions no longer rely solely on children, and people's concept of childbearing will also be affected accordingly.

  Second, the level of medical care and public health is improving.

Today, the national average life expectancy has reached 78.2 years, and some provinces and cities in the eastern region have exceeded 80 years old, which has also had an impact on fertility levels.

After the population structure changes, the young population of childbearing age is decreasing, so under the same birth rate, the number of children born each year is also decreasing.

  Third, the concept of equality between men and women is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.

The employment rate of Chinese women is very high, and women have to balance the relationship between childbearing and career development.

  Fourth, the level of education is improving.

We often say that the higher the level of education, the more the fertility level tends to decline. There is a change of concept here.

At the same time, the length of education is extended, and the age of first marriage and first childbirth is also delayed. The price paid by working women in childbearing will be higher, which will also lead to a decline in the number of childbearing population.

  On the whole, the number of women of childbearing age is decreasing, the age of first marriage and first childbirth is being delayed, and the divorce rate and unmarried rate are also increasing.

At the same time, young people will also encounter the difficulty of balancing work and childbearing.

The combination of these factors will make the number of births in 2022 hit a new low.

"Quantity advantage" and "Quality advantage"

China News Agency reporter: When "fewer birthrates and aging populations" become the norm, and the population structure "decreases and increases", what is the biggest challenge facing China's development?

Are we ready?

Du Peng:

We are making comprehensive preparations.

As early as 2006, the national level proposed to actively respond to population aging. Since then, the response to population aging has been upgraded to a national strategy. "National Strategy" and so on are deployed in the part of promoting the construction of a healthy China.

From a practical point of view, in recent years, we have also been constantly exploring and solving the problem of "one old and one young", such as constantly improving the childbirth policy, exploring inclusive childcare, promoting education fairness, etc., to reduce the burden of young people on choosing schools for their children and extracurricular tutoring. anxiety or parenting costs.

  In addition, the role of pension measures is also closely related to the increase in fertility.

The first child in the family is generally taken care of by the elderly. If the second child is also taken care of by the elderly, the elderly will have 8-10 years to take care of the children for their children. This poses a new challenge: whether the elderly are willing to help their children Take on parenting responsibilities.

  Like pensions, many social security issues will be involved here, such as how to promote the cohabitation of the elderly and their children, how to give preferential treatment to young people in terms of taxation and other aspects, how to solve the problem of medical insurance for the elderly in different places, etc. The country has been constantly improving relevant measures in these aspects .

  Of course, the policy path is very clear, but it will take a few years before the policy is implemented to see real results.

Data map: Parents send students back to school by bicycle.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Yi Haifei

Reporter from China News Agency: Many countries in the world have explored how to deal with the "declining birth rate and aging population". What experiences or lessons can we learn from other countries?

Currently, what needs to be done most?

Du Peng:

In recent years, we have also learned from some countries' measures to encourage births.

However, generally speaking, what we need to do is to pay attention to strategy, to focus on and promote the increase or stability of the fertility rate from a strategic point of view; Good experience, we should make choices based on our own national conditions for reference.

In the final analysis, China still has to forge its own path.

China News Agency reporter: Recently, Stephen Roach, a senior researcher at Yale University in the United States, talked about solving the problem of shrinking working-age population by increasing the productivity of individual workers.

China's population needs to focus on the transformation from "quantity advantage" to "quality advantage"?

Du Peng:

First of all, we must make it clear that we are not worried about the shortage of labor force due to negative population growth, but are more concerned about whether the large and well-educated young labor force group can obtain jobs that match themselves, so that the labor supply and economic and social development needs more tightly bound.

Of course, at the same time, in the process of China's modernization, the way of development will increasingly focus on relying on technology-intensive industries to promote future development.

  Roach's point of view is also very important. He emphasizes the production of individual factors and total factors, that is, we cannot simply compare the quantity of labor force, but the quality of labor force, labor force structure and modern development model.

The picture shows Du Peng.

Photo by China News Agency reporter Tian Yuhao

How is China finding new demographic opportunities?

China News Agency: According to the population forecast of the United Nations, India will overtake China in April this year and become the most populous country in the world.

How can China find opportunities in the future global human resource structure?

Du Peng:

The number of population is the first and the second. There is no advantage or disadvantage in itself. We don’t need to pay too much attention to the number of population, but we should pay more attention to whether population is more beneficial to economic and social development, whether people’s sense of happiness and gain In continuous improvement, more attention should be paid to the advantages and challenges brought about by demographic changes.

In terms of advantages, whether it is the education level of the population, the level of health or the process of population urbanization, compared with India, we are much higher.

In terms of challenges, our low fertility rate and rapid population aging also mean that in terms of social security, we need to spend more effort to improve the fertility level, solve the problems of childcare and elderly care, education equity, and the gap between urban and rural areas etc.

Therefore, we don’t have to stick to the ranking of the population. We must see the development achievements of the past 40 years, especially the past 10 years, so as to take advantage of our own advantages and development potential, based on the population and national conditions, to take our own path of modernization.