Amid China’s population decline crisis, the government pins hopes on the Year of the Dragon in 2024 to reverse dwindling birth rates. Can ‘baby dragons’ rescue the nation’s demographic future?
Beijing, China – January 20, 2024: China, facing a critical population crisis, is placing its bets on the Year of the Dragon in 2024 to bring about a much-needed turnaround. The nation has been grappling with a significant decline of 2.08 million in its population over the past year, surpassing the troubling decrease observed in 2022. Despite persistent government efforts to encourage childbirth and address the challenges posed by an aging workforce, the results have been less than encouraging.
The Chinese government is leaning on the cultural significance of the dragon, associated with strength, intelligence, and success, to inspire parents to time their childbirths in the auspicious year. Historically, the impact of the Chinese zodiac on birth rates was minimal until around 2010, as per University of Wisconsin-Madison demographer Fuxian Yi. He pointed out that the Year of the Dragon in 2000 did not witness a substantial increase in birth rates, challenging the belief in the zodiac’s influence. However, a modest rise in fertility in 2012, the previous Year of the Dragon, offers a glimmer of hope for 2024.
Despite expectations of a slight increase in births to around 9.3 million, experts caution that the influence of post-pandemic measures might overshadow any impact from the zodiac sign. The demographic outlook for China remains a cause for concern, with projections indicating that by 2050, 40% of the population could be aged 60 or older, posing significant economic and social challenges.
Fuxian Yi anticipates a net population decline this year, with deaths potentially offsetting any positive growth from births. Economic woes are identified as a major deterrent to childbirth, with experts highlighting the impact of economic pessimism on the nation’s birth rate.
“It is also because of these miseries that Chinese women are increasingly resorting to not having children or not getting married at all,” noted Wang Feng, a Chinese demographics expert at the University of California, Irvine. As the nation navigates through these challenges, the dragon takes on a symbolic role, representing not just hope for a demographic resurgence but also the resilience needed to overcome economic hardships and social transformations.
Amidst a persisting decline in fertility rates and a worrisome drop in population, China is placing its hopes on the upcoming Year of the Dragon, 2024, to breathe new life into its demographic challenges. The Chinese government, grappling with a 2.08 million decrease in population over the past year, is banking on the auspicious symbolism associated with the mythical creature – the dragon – to usher in strength, intelligence, and success.
According to recent statistics, the declining trend in population has raised concerns among Chinese authorities. Despite proactive measures to encourage childbirth and tackle the aging workforce, the results have fallen short of expectations. Fuxian Yi, a demographer from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, highlighted that the Chinese zodiac’s impact on birth rates was minimal until 2010, drawing from annual census data.
Interestingly, the Dragon Year in 2000 did not witness a significant boost in birth rates, challenging the belief in the zodiac’s influence. However, there was a modest rise in fertility in 2012, the previous Year of the Dragon, offering a glimmer of hope for the upcoming 2024. Nevertheless, with the expected number of births projected to reach around 9.3 million, experts, including Yi, predict that the lifting of pandemic-era measures might outweigh any impact from the zodiac sign.
Looking ahead, China faces grim prospects, with projections suggesting that by 2050, individuals aged 60 or older could make up a staggering 40% of the population, leading to economic and social challenges. Wang Feng, a Chinese demographics expert at the University of California, Irvine, attributes the current population decline to economic hardships, emphasizing the profound impact of economic pessimism on birth rates.
“Having a child is a life-long responsibility. Economic pessimism is a strong counterforce for improving the birth rate this year,” said Wang Feng, adding that it’s contributing to an increasing number of Chinese women opting not to have children or to remain unmarried.
The eyes of the nation are fixed on 2024, as the Year of the Dragon unfolds, bringing with it the promise of ‘baby dragons’ that could play a pivotal role in reshaping China’s demographic landscape and steering the country towards a more sustainable future.