What does slowing birth rate, rising elderly population mean for China?

While China has made a historic decision to relax its family planning policy and allow couples to have a third child, the debate is raging about what its slowing birth rate and rising elderly population means.

The tech industry is looking to seize the opportunity to accommodate the needs of the older population, a potentially booming market. File image: Rice Robotics

CAPE TOWN, June 3 (ANA) – Although China has made a historic decision to relax its family size policy to allow for a third child, economic fundamentals might not encourage couples to take up the offer.

The issue has also spurred debate about what a slowing birth rate and quickly expanding elderly population means for the Asian giant and the world as a whole.

According to state-run news agency Xinhua, Chinese authorities have decided to allow couples to have one more addition to the two children that have been allowed per family since 2016. Before that, the world’s most populous nation, with around 1.4 billion people, had maintained a one-child policy for nearly 40 years.

However, despite China’s efforts to lift its fertility rate, the general public opinion, and that among some critics, is that the high cost of living and a host of other pressures such as affordable quality education could deter residents from extending their families.

“The government said there will be supporting measures to be implemented in the future to reduce the cost of living in raising children,”James Liang, a professor of applied economics at the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, said in an interview with China Global Television Network (CGTN).

“But these policies take some time to design and implement and people’s expectations are high for these policies.”

These types of policies usually come in a comprehensive set which could include tax exemption, housing subsidies, daycare centres and various other measures to support women balance their careers with raising children.

The Future Today Institute, which uses big data to forecast and model future risks and opportunities, said in a report the current demographic imbalance China is facing will transform the relationship between the ageing and technology.

It says by 2050, those over the age of 60 are expected to represent one-fifth of the entire global population. With that in mind, the tech industry is looking to seize the opportunity to cater for the needs of the older population and the booming market it represents.

“Along with the elder boom comes a slowdown in birthrates, meaning we’ll have fewer young people to care for more old people,” the report says.

“This provides a huge opportunity and urgent use case for automation and smart home solutions for seniors, as well as companion bots like those already in production from companies like ElliQ and Zora.”

Despite the stereotype of older generations being “technologically illiterate,” the Covid-19 global pandemic has seen a surge in annual spending in the sector among those aged over 50, suggesting older generations are more open to technology than earlier realised, the report says.

– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa

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