Rhein on Energy and Climate

In the last 60 years, China’s demographic, health and educational patterns have undergone extraordinary changes. From being a country with the fastest demographic on earth, with a fertility rate of 6 children per woman in 1950, its population has now started falling with a fertility rate of only 1.5 children, comparable to that of most of EU countries.

It has managed this demographic revolution thanks to the “one child family” policy decreed in 1978, which reduced the number of children per woman from five to less than two within 30 years.

The decline in fertility has helped China to dramatically raise adult literacy standards, from 20 per cent in 1949 to 94 per cent in 2010!

Humanity would count only some six billion people today and enjoy a much better state of climate and sustainability if all developing countries had followed the Chinese example 30 years ago!

Thanks to massive investments in education and health, life expectancy has been catching up with developed countries. With 75 years (for men and women) today it exceeds the global average of 67 years substantially!

It is not surprising that China is about to adjust its retirement age to higher life expectancy and growing labour scarcity. According to the plans of the Ministry of Labour the retirement age will be lifted, in stages, to 65 years, compared to 60 for men and 50-55 for women at present. As of 2028 men will have to retire at 65, women latest by 2048.

For men this is an ambitious time table which underscores Chinese apprehensions about a much tighter labour market in the coming 15 years.

It would be the first time that China is ahead of several EU countries on a major aspect of social policy.

China is rapidly becoming a “normal” developed country.

  • Its age structure will soon be similar to that of EU countries.
  • It is in the process of building an extensive health care system for its 1.3 billion citizens, something the US has not yet achieved despite the recent health reform.
  • Its population is increasingly haunted by “civilisation diseases”: half of its citizens is suffering from overweight and the number of obese is exploding. With 100 million obese people China is home to more obese people than any other country!
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