Confronting East Asia’s Demographic Transition

Confronting East Asia’s Demographic Transition
Elderly people wait for their lunch at a charity for older people who live alone, Dingxing, China, May 13, 2021 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The results of China’s once-a-decade census, released in May after a one-month delay, showed that the population of mainland China grew at an average rate of 0.53 percent each year between 2010 and 2020. The official results contradicted an earlier report by the Financial Times, which indicated the census figures would actually show a population decline. 

What is certain, though, is that the combination of higher life expectancies and lower fertility rates poses a huge challenge for East Asia’s largest economy, and for other major economies in the region as well. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore all have population growth rates that are in negative territory or will be in the coming years. It’s an issue with global implications, given the important role that these countries play in the world economy.

This week on Trend Lines, Ronald D. Lee, a demographer and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, joins WPR’s Elliot Waldman to talk about how East Asia is coping with its major demographic changes. 


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Trend Lines is edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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