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Will China's and India's populations outgrow their capabilities?

Comparing population trends in China and India to those in Canada and Germany.

Note: This page contains a number of graphs.  With a dial-up modem it will therefore take a little over a minute to fully load.  Begin to read, and by the time you come to the first illustration the page will most likely be finished loading.

The two most populous nations on Earth comprise presently a little more than one-third of the world's population.
   Demographers always feared that the capabilities of these two countries to maintain themselves and to prevent themselves from starving to death due to unchecked population growth was becoming exhausted.
   Many people still believe today that to be a serious concern.  However, the problems faced by China and India in the next few decades will be quite different from what most people expect.
   Both countries will be facing a population calamity of unprecedented proportions.  Not having the massive but rapidly shrinking wealth of the western nations, the two countries will face a problem they never before had to worry about, but a problem of their own making.  Increasingly the same problem is affecting more and more countries, but nowhere will its impact be felt on such a large scale as in China and India. 
   Both countries have entered the era of zero-population growth.  In consequence they will lose over the next few generations what had proved over the millennia to be the most secure and most efficient social safety net in the existence of humanity, their families.  More correctly and collectively, they'll lose the steady renewal of the working and productive population sector. 

China and India will face a triple jeopardy. 

  1. Their birth rates have approached total fertility rates that are insufficient to maintain population levels,

  2. Their productive, employable population sectors will shrink to less than two-thirds of their population, meaning that even if all people of working age were to be gainfully employed, they would have to support at least a third (and growing) of their population that is not yet or no longer capable of working.

  3. There won't be the required wealth to maintain the standard of living that people have become accustomed to.  That means that many who presently live at or barely above starvation quite simply will starve to death.   Not the least of the reasons will be that elderly people will have no younger children to care for them, while the state will be unable to do so on account of insufficient financial resources to do it with.  Besides, all the money in the world will not be able to buy labour from people that don't exist or exist in insufficient numbers, the working population.

Pictures say more than a thousand words.  Have a look at projections for the population distributions for China and India, for the years 2000, 2025 and 2050. (Clicking on any of the charts will give you access to a larger version.)

Note: All of the graphs on this page are based on 1990 census data.  When the year 2000 census data will be reflected, the picture that emerges will with a very high probability be worse.  That is because few population projections made by demographers in the past allowed sufficiently for the effects of falling birth rates.  The future effect of falling birth rates has been persistently underestimated.

population pyramid, by sex, China, 2000 population pyramid, by sex, China, 2025 population pyramid, by sex, China, 2050
population pyramid, by sex, India, 2000 population pyramid, by sex, India, 2025 population pyramid, by sex, India, 2050

However, the problems in wait for China and India have been with the western nations for a while already.  For them the same fate is in store, only more so and much sooner.
   The examples of Canada and Germany are typical of all developed nations.

population pyramid, by sex, Canada, 2000 population pyramid, by sex, Canada, 2025 population pyramid, by sex, Canada, 2050
population pyramid, by sex, Germany, 2000 population pyramid, by sex, Germany, 2025 population pyramid, by sex, Germany, 2050
The preceding graphs were derived  from data made available at
the International Database of  the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
The following graphs show the proportions of people of school age, of working age and of retirement age over the years in China, India, Canada and Germany.
Population distribution by sex and age (2000, 2025, 2050), China
Population distribution by sex and age (2000, 2025, 2050), India
Population distribution by sex and age (2000, 2025, 2050), Canada
Population distribution by sex and age (2000, 2025, 2050), Germany

The information in the preceding four graphs is also based on 1990 census data from the International Database of  the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Once more, the problem facing all countries in the world will be a shrinking working population that must strive to provide for an ever-growing population sector comprised of the elderly.  Moreover, the working population will have to do so with the full knowledge that when they become elderly in turn, their needs must be looked after by a working population totally inadequate for the task.

The problem will not go away.  It will become worse, far worse.  The only choice that will be available for older people no longer employed is whether they'll die voluntarily or because they are destitute.  
    Without any doubt, some people, relatively few, will have sufficient wealth to be comfortable in their old age.  However, the number of those people living in comfort will shrink rapidly as rising costs of services and increasing taxation to pay for the enormously escalating social costs will strip the purchasing power from their savings, in case they still can save anything. 
   With each day anyone grows older he'll come one day closer to his personal Armageddon.  There'll be no escape for anyone and for no nation.  The first pains are being felt already now, but they'll become far worse during the next few years.  

Suchindra Chandrahas wrote from India to comment on the observations contained in this web page.

Update 2012 12 27: http://www.wnd.com/2012/12/germany-exporting-old-sick-to-foreign-care-homes/

Back to the first page of Demographics of the World and for selected countries

If you have concerns about these and other issues related to the condition of seniors, visit, contact and perhaps even join:

SUN Seniors United Now

The up- and coming, rapidly-growing advocacy organization for seniors (55 years and over) in Alberta

There are in the order of about half a million or more people of age 55 and over in Alberta. If all of them were to join SUN, they would become the most powerful advocacy organization in Alberta; and seniors would no longer be robbed of their comforts and otherwise ignored.
   At the price of one package of cigarettes seniors will be able to gain a voice that will be heard by a government that otherwise can and will take from seniors what they worked for all their life to enjoy in their old age.

If you are concerned about how seniors are affected by the planned, systematic destruction of our families and society, a search at google.com (for elderly OR seniors OR grandparent OR grandfather OR grandmother site:http://fathersforlife.org) will provide you with the links to about 80 web pages at Fathers for Life that will be of interest to you.

White RoseThe White Rose
Thoughts are Free

Posted 2002 02 20
2002 02 21 (added population pyramids for Canada and Germany)
2004 06 24 (added entry for SUN — Seniors United Now)