China has a lot of people.
And it also has a lot of old people.
In a recent note to clients, US Trust’s head of market and thematic strategy, Joseph P. Quinlan, shared a chart showing just how staggering the number of people in China who are 65 and over is.
According to the note, based on UN population estimates, there are a whopping 138 million elderly Chinese people – a number that’s greater than the combined elderly populations of Italy, Germany, Japan, France, and the US.
In case that comparison isn’t stunning enough, Quinlan adds that China’s elderly population alone is the 10th largest population cohort in the world – just a teeny bit smaller than Russia’s entire population, which is around 143.5 million.
“And the figure is only set to grow: the pace of population aging is much faster in China than other countries across the developed and developing world,” writes Quinlan.
In 2020, China’s elderly population is expected to reach 170 million, doubling in size compared to the 84 million at the turn of the century. In contrast, it will take the world (excluding China) closer to 30 years to double its population of elders.
- United Nations, World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision, via US Trust
Notably, in March, a report on the global aging phenomenon from the US Census Bureau also touched on some comparisons between China’s over-65 population and the total population of several big-developed markets:
- In 2015, the number of older people in China (136.9 million) exceeded Japan’s total population (126.9 million).By 2030, Japan and Egypt’s combined total projected populations (231.8 million) will be smaller than China’s projected 65-and-up population (238.8 million).And by 2050, China’s projected older population (348.8 million) will be approximately equal the combined total projected populations of Japan, Egypt, Germany, and Australia.
At the same time, China’s working-age population – people 15 to 59 – has started shrinking. Putting these two trends together, in the coming decades there will be far more older residents who will likely want to retire and fewer working-age citizens to support them, assuming that the projections hold.
Historically, aging populations have generally been a problem that more developed markets like Japan have had to deal with, rather than emerging economies like China, as we have previously noted.
So, the graying of China could present new problems and opportunities that we haven’t seen in other markets before.