Nearly 700,000 Pakistani Workers Have Migrated Overseas So Far in Year 2022
Nearly 700,000 Pakistanis have left to work overseas in the first 10 months of the current calendar year, according to Pakistan's Bureau of Emigration Overseas Employment (BEOE). The worker migration from Pakistan had dipped to 225,000 in 2020 and 280,000 in 2021 due to Covid restrictions around the world. The yearly average for the last decade was over half a million Pakistanis migrating to other countries for work. In August this year, the State Bank of Pakistan said in its "Half Year Report 2021-22" that “(t)he monthly flow of Pakistani workers (overseas) has reverted to pre-Covid levels (of 65,000 per month).” The data from International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that a lot more of the Pakistan migrants are now skilled labor while the share of unskilled migrants is declining: "Pakistani migrant workers were skilled (42%) and involved in semi-skilled jobs such as welders, secretaries, masons, carpenters, plumbers and so on. Another proportion of the labour migration was composed of unskilled laborers (39%) such as agriculturists, laborers or farmers. Projections about future trends indicate that the number of Pakistani labour migrants will continue rising to reach 15.5 million in 2020 (Government of Pakistan, 2018". Larger and increasingly higher skilled diaspora is expected to sustain double-digit annual growth in overseas worker remittances to Pakistan.
|Pakistani Workers Going Overseas. Source: Bureau of Emigration|
With rapidly aging populations and declining number of working age people in North America, Europe and East Asia, the demand for workers will increasingly be met by major labor exporting nations like Bangladesh, China, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia and Vietnam. Among these nations, Pakistan is the only major labor exporting country where the working age population is still rising faster than the birth rate.
Over 10 million Pakistanis are currently working/living overseas, according to the Bureau of Emigration. Before the COVID19 pandemic hit in 2020, more than 600,000 Pakistanis left the country to work overseas in 2019. Nearly 700,000 Pakistanis have already migrated in this calendar year as of October, 2022. The average yearly outflow of Pakistani workers to OECD countries (mainly UK and US) and the Middle East was over half a million in the last decade.
|Consumer Markets in 2030. Source: WEF|
World's 7th Largest Consumer Market:
Pakistan's share of the working age population (15-64 years) is growing as the country's birth rate declines, a phenomenon called demographic dividend. With its rising population of this working age group, Pakistan is projected by the World Economic Forum to become the world's 7th largest consumer market by 2030. Nearly 60 million Pakistanis will join the consumer class (consumers spending more than $11 per day) to raise the country's consumer market rank from 15 to 7 by 2030. WEF forecasts the world's top 10 consumer markets of 2030 to be as follows: China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, Pakistan, Japan, Egypt and Mexico. Global investors chasing bigger returns will almost certainly shift more of their attention and money to the biggest movers among the top 10 consumer markets, including Pakistan. Already, the year 2021 has been a banner year for investments in Pakistani technology startups.
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According to the 2020 International Migrant Stock compiled by UNDESA4, a total of 952,993 Pakistani nationals resided in Europe in 2020. Fifty-eight per cent of them were male and forty-two percent were female. The number of Pakistani nationals in each European country in 2020 is shown in Annex 1, together with gender-disaggregated numbers. UNDESA estimates the number and composition of migrants on the basis of data obtained from population censuses, population registers and national surveys. The dataset provides estimates of the international migrant stock by age, sex and origin for the mid-point (1 July) of each year: 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2020.
European Countries Total Migrants Male Female
Denmark 14,318 7,503 6,815
Estonia 261 195 66
Finland 3,134 2,090 1,044
Iceland 94 69 25
Ireland 10,570 6,667 3,903
Latvia 228 204 24
Lithuania 7 3 4
Norway 21,140 10,853 10,287
Sweden 16,597 9,891 6,706
United Kingdom 537,047 282,645 254,402
Greece 8,823 4,435 4,388
Italy 124,800 89,557 35,243
Malta 549 300 249
Portugal 2,217 1,469 748
Slovenia 42 31 11
Spain 63,819 41,074 22,745
Austria 6,097 4,076 2,021
Belgium 13,246 8,143 5,103
France 27,203 16,341 10,862
Germany 79,227 53,993 25,234
Liechtenstein 7 5 2
Luxembourg 279 169 110
Switzerland 5,381 3,304 2,077
The Netherlands 14,104 8,030 6,074
Bulgaria 290 182 108
Hungary 1,055 780 275
Poland 278 257 21
Romania 625 438 187
Russia 726 579 147
Slovakia 122 110 12
The Czech Republic 662 501 161
Pakistan Private Consumption Expenditure was reported at 324.824 USD bn in Dec 2022. This records an increase from the previous number of 290.625 USD bn for Dec 2021. See the table below for more data.
Pakistan Private Consumption Expenditure was reported at 324.824 USD bn in Dec 2022. This records an increase from the previous number of 290.625 USD bn for Dec 2021.
Pakistan Private Consumption Expenditure data is updated yearly, averaging 31.179 USD bn from Dec 1960 to 2022, with 63 observations.
The data reached an all-time high of 324.824 USD bn in 2022 and a record low of 3.084 USD bn in 1960.
Pakistan Private Consumption Expenditure data remains in an active status in CEIC and is reported by CEIC Data.
The data is categorized under World Trend Plus’s Global Economic Monitor – Table: Nominal GDP: Private Consumption Expenditure: USD: Annual: Asia.
CEIC shifts year-end for annual Private Consumption Expenditure and converts it into USD. Private Consumption Expenditure is calculated as the sum of Household and NPISHs consumption. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics provides Private Consumption Expenditure in local currency based on SNA 2008 with benchmark year 2015-2016. The State Bank of Pakistan average market exchange rate is used for currency conversions. Private Consumption Expenditure is reported in annual frequency, ending in June of each year. Private Consumption Expenditure prior to 2016 is based on SNA 2008 with benchmark year 2005-2006. Private Consumption Expenditure prior to 2000 is sourced from the World Bank.
Funds from world’s largest diaspora a key source of cash
Migrants living in wealthy nations boost inflows to the nation
Pakistan, Bangladesh Remittances Drop As Illegal Flows Rise
Flows at an eight-month low in Bangladesh and Pakistan
Higher currency rates on the gray market explain the decline
Remittances to two of South Asia’s largest countries dropped to their lowest level in eight months, with migrant workers finding it more profitable to send money through illegal non-banking channels.
Pakistan’s remittances fell to $2.2 billion and Bangladesh’s to $1.5 billion in October, according to central bank data. Currency rates on the gray market, also known as hawala, are higher than official exchange rates for both countries.
The Brief said remittances to South Asia grew an estimated 3.5 percent to $163 billion in 2022, but there is large disparity across countries, from India's projected 12 percent gain-which is on track to reach $100 billion in receipts for the year--to Nepal's 4 percent increase, to an aggregate decline of 10 percent for the region's remaining countries.
The report showed that the remittance flow in Bangladesh was downward in the last 8 months.
World Bank Expects Pakistan’s Remittances to Decline by Over 7%
Remittances in Pakistan are expected to drop by 7.4 percent to $29 billion in 2022 from $31 billion in 2021, says the World Bank.
The Bank in its latest report “Remittances Brave Global Headwinds Special Focus: Climate Migration”, noted that while remittances exceeded pre-pandemic levels they fell compared to 2021, exacerbating a balance of payments crisis.
Remittances to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) withstood global headwinds in 2022, growing an estimated 5% to $626 billion. This is sharply lower than the 10.2% increase in 2021, according to the latest World Bank Migration and Development Brief.
There are 8,772 Pakistanis studying in the United States in 2021/22, up 17% from the prior year when COVID restrictions reduced international travel.
There has been a 17 percent year-on-year increase in the number of Pakistani students in the United States during 2021-22, says an official US report.
The report, released in Washington this week, notes that the United States remains the top destination for international students and the number of students from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan is on the rise!
In South Asia, Bangladesh topped the list with a 23 per cent year-over-year increase, followed by India with a 19pc increase.
Pakistan also has the largest US-funded Fulbright programme in the world, which sends 150 Pakistanis each year to US universities — 100 to earn their master’s degrees and 50 to earn PhDs.
The United States also sponsors 800 Pakistanis each year to travel on exchange programs — from high school students who spend a year at a US high school to professionals who connect with their American counterparts. As a result, Pakistan is home to the largest network of alumni of US government-funded exchange programmes in the world.
The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” published this week, identified China and India as the largest sources of international students to the United States. During the current academic year, China sent 290,086 students, which is 30.6pc of the total number of international students in the US. Yet, it is a decline of 8.6pc, compared to the previous academic year. India, which sent 199,183 students this year — 21 percent of the total — registered a 19pc year-over-year increase. Together, China and India represent the majority (almost 52pc) of all international students in the United States.
This year’s report shows a 91pc decline in the total number of US students who studied abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. This is apparently because since the Covid-19 pandemic, 62pc of US colleges offer virtual internships.
While the pandemic also caused a 45.6pc decline in new international students in 2020, the latest data, covering the 2021-2022 academic year, indicates that the total number of international students in the US — 948,519 — has started to recover.
This can be seen in a 3.8pc increase over the 914,095 international students in the US in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018.
Much of the recent growth is driven by an increase in the number of new international students — 261,961 – which is up 80pc over the 145,528 from 2020 but still 2.14pc below the 267,712 from 2019. Over the past decade, US colleges enrolled more students from China than from any other country. The onset of the global pandemic effectively halted travel between China and the US and political tensions further exacerbated the situation. Now, many Chinese parents feel their children are safe in the US.
The increase in Indian students is also attributed to the Biden administration’s policy of prioritising the student-visa processing in India. This includes adding more staff at US missions in India and streamlining the process, Chinese visa approvals are trending lower than in past years.
Goldman Sachs analysts said slower population growth will present “a number of economic challenges,” such as how nations will pay for rising health costs of their aging populations.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists have taken a stab at predicting the path of the world economy through 2075.
Two decades since they famously outlined long-term growth projections for the so-called BRIC economies, the economists, now led by Jan Hatzius, expanded their projections to encompass 104 countries over the next half-century.
Global growth will average just under 3% a year over the next decade, down from 3.6% in the decade before the financial crisis, and will be on a gradually declining path afterwards, reflecting a slowing of labor force growth.
Emerging markets will continue to converge with industrial nations as China, the U.S., India, Indonesia and Germany top the league table of largest economies when measured in dollars. Nigeria, Pakistan and Egypt could also be among the biggest.
The U.S. is unlikely to repeat its relative strong performance of the last decade, and the dollar’s exceptional robustness will also unwind over the next 10 years.
While income inequality between countries has fallen, it will continue to rise within them.
Economists Kevin Daly and Tadas Gedminas saw protectionism and climate change as risks that are “particularly important” both for growth and the convergence of incomes.
Pakistan projected to be among largest economies in the world by 2075: Goldman Sachs
A research paper published by Goldman Sachs on Tuesday projected Pakistan to be the sixth largest economy in the world by 2075 given “appropriate policies and institutions” are in place.
Authored by economists Kevin Daly and Tadas Gedminas and titled ‘The Path to 2075’, the paper projected that the five largest economies by 2075 will be China, India, the US, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Goldman Sachs has been projecting long-term growth of countries for almost two decades now, initially starting out with BRICs economies, but for the past 10 years they have expanded those projections to cover 70 emerging and developed economies.
Their latest paper covers 104 countries with projections going as far as 2075.
Pakistan is projected to become the sixth-largest economy in the world by 2075, according to a research paper published by Goldman Sachs.
‘The Path to 2075’ paper authored by economists Kevin Daly and Tadas Gedminas projects that the five largest economies by 2075 will be China, India, the US, Indonesia, and Nigeria with Pakistan projected to occupy the sixth spot given “appropriate policies and institutions” are in place.
Pakistan’s star future status is predicted on the back of its population growth, which could place it among the largest economies in the world in the next 50 years, according to the paper.
The paper projects that Pakistan’s Real GDP would grow to $12.7 trillion by 2075 with its GDP per capita soaring to $27,100.
The authors have highlighted “environmental catastrophe” and “populist nationalism” as the key risks to their projections.
The paper says that unless a path to sustainable growth is ensured through a globally coordinated response, climate change could heavily skew these projections, particularly for countries like Pakistan.
Moreover, it says that populist nationalists coming to power in many countries might lead to increased protectionism that could potentially result in the reversal of globalization, thereby increasing income inequality across countries.
Looking out to 2075, the authors caution that world growth, which has already dimmed over the decades, is heading further south.
Much of the slowdown is thanks to a deceleration in population gains. Over the past half-century, the number of people on the plant went from increasing 2 percent a year to less than 1 percent now and is expected to drop to near zero by 2075.
The authors say that the only way to sustain faster economic growth if your population isn’t increasing is to improve productivity. The report highlights that there has been a slowdown in productivity in both emerging markets and developed economies with a weakening in the globalization of trade as a major culprit.
Pakistanis who left Pakistan.
Data by Bureau of Emigration
Thread 🧵 highlight key points:
People leaving Pakistan by year
Previous two years had a slow down due to COVID-19
Trained Workers: 350,000
Remaining are untrained or no data available.
Associate Engineers: 18,000
Computer Operators: 12,000
Computer Scientists: 2000
*By Pak region:*
Saudi Arabia: 470,000
"Too much dependency on Saudia; we are way behind in the USA, as 100,000 Indians yearly move to USA while 700 Pakistanis go."
Focus needed on relevant skills training (productivity value-addition) and failitation both for ME and the West...
Shared by despardes.com | Home & Abroad
Data sourced from: Economy of Pakistan @Pakistanomy
Under verification scheme, Pakistani workers can get contracts directly from Saudi companies without needing sponsor
Saudi envoy says 12 examination centers have been established in eight Pakistani cities to conduct tests of skilled workers
ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia on Monday launched a skill verification program in Pakistan, with the South Asia nation becoming the first beneficiary of Riyadh's new scheme for skilled workers.
Under the newly launched program, a dozen examination centers will conduct written and practical tests of skilled workers in Pakistan before they could apply for a Saudi work visa.
Saudi Arabia is home to more than 2.5 million Pakistani expatriates and one of the biggest sources of remittances to Pakistan.
Saad Aiaqil, director-general of the Saudi skill verification program, said Pakistan was the first country to utilize the skilled workers' scheme.
“We have a very strong strategic relationship with Pakistan and have selected it as the first country to start this program,” he told Arab News at the program's launch in Islamabad on Monday.
The initiative is aimed at ensuring skilled workforce comes to the kingdom, Aiaqil said.
“In the first phase we have selected five occupations for the program and these five have further 160 smaller categories for the workers,” he added.
Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Pakistan, said he was pleased at the launch of the program in Pakistan.
"Twelve examination centers have been established in collaboration with [Pakistan's] National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTCC) in eight different cities to conduct tests,” the envoy said. “In the first phase of the program, five occupations were selected including electrician, plumbing, welding, refrigeration/air conditioning, and auto electrician.”
The Saudi government was trying to provide best opportunities to Pakistani workers through the new program as the verified workers would be considered "more credible and useful" for Saudi firms, to Al-Malki added.
“There are a lot of projects in the kingdom going on and this is a very good opportunity for the Pakistani labor to get a job in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “This will benefit workers as well because there would be no need of a kafala (sponsor) now and through this program, there would be a direct contract between workers and the company,” he said, referring to the kafala system that generally binds a migrant worker to one employer.
Sajid Hussain Turi, federal minister for overseas Pakistanis, welcomed the Saudi initiative and vowed to provide maximum workers to the kingdom under the program.
“Pakistan welcomes the initiative and we hope it will provide better opportunities to the Pakistani labor market,” he said.
The minister said around 6 million Pakistanis had contributed to Saudi Arabia's development in various fields over the last 50 years and now his ministry would try to provide Pakistani workers with the best training so that they could benefit from the new Saudi scheme.
“Saudi Arabia is starting many mega projects under Vision 2030 like Neom, Taif city project, and development in Makkah, so we hope that a large number of Pakistani workers would be able to get employment there,” the minister said.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia announced new plans to ease foreign workers’ contractual restrictions, abolishing a seven-decade-old sponsorship system known as kafala.
The plans, which took effect in March 2021, aim to make the Saudi labour market more attractive by granting foreign workers the right to change jobs and leave the country without employers’ permission.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to boost its private sector, part of an ambitious plan to diversify its oil-dependent economy. The country's Vision 2030 reform plan is a package of economic and social policies designed to free the kingdom from reliance on oil exports.
The United Arab Emirates on Monday strongly denied reports of not providing visas to Pakistani citizens belonging to certain cities, terming it as "fake news".
The statement was made by the Consulate General of the UAE Karachi Bakheet Ateeq Al Remeithi. Speaking to Geo News, Remeithi said that no such ban has been imposed by the UAE government.
Reports were being circulated that the gulf country is not allowing visas to some of the Pakistani cities including Abbottabad, Attock, Bajaur Agency, Chakwal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Hunza, Quetta, Kasur, Kohat, Kotli, Khushab, Khurrum Agency, Larkana, Mohmand Agency, Muzaffargarh, Nawabshah, Parachinar, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Sheikhupura, Skardu and Sukkur.
The poster warned people to not apply if they belong to any of the aforementioned cities.
"Your visa will be rejected and the fee is non-refundable," it added,
While expressing his regret over these reports, Remeithi said that Pakistani citizens can apply to visit or any other UAE visa, adding that they are being provided visas.
He told that apart from the consulates in Islamabad and Lahore, he is personally issuing visas to the citizens born or residing in these cities, from the Karachi consulate.
The consulate general also said that rumours like this are spread from time to time.
FO confirms ‘no ban’ by UAE on visas
The Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed that the UAE had not banned or blacklisted the issuance of visas to Pakistanis belonging to specific cities.
“We have seen the reports. We can confirm that no such ban is in place by UAE for issuance of visas to Pakistani citizens,” Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said.
Since inception of the Bureau in the year 1971, more than 10 million emigrants have been provided overseas employment duly registered with the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment. During the year 2015, highest number of Pakistanis(946,571) proceeded abroad for the purpose of employment. During the year 2022 (December), 832,339 Pakistanis proceeded abroad for the purpose of employment.
Japan’s prime minister issued a dire warning about the country’s population crisis on Monday, saying it was “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions” due to the falling birth rate.
In a policy address to lawmakers, Fumio Kishida said it was a case of solving the issue “now or never,” and that it “simply cannot wait any longer.”
“In thinking of the sustainability and inclusiveness of our nation’s economy and society, we place child-rearing support as our most important policy,” the prime minister said.
Kishida added that he wants the government to double its spending on child-related programs, and that a new government agency would be set up in April to focus on the issue.
Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, with the Ministry of Health predicting it will record fewer than 800,000 births in 2022 for the first time since records began in 1899.
The country also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world; in 2020, nearly one in 1,500 people in Japan were age 100 or older, according to government data.
These trends have driven a growing demographic crisis, with a rapidly aging society, a shrinking workforce and not enough young people to fill the gaps in the stagnating economy.
Experts point to several factors behind the low birth rate. The country’s high cost of living, limited space and lack of child care support in cities make it difficult to raise children, meaning fewer couples are having kids. Urban couples are also often far from extended family who could help provide support.
Attitudes toward marriage and starting families have also shifted in recent years, with more couples putting off both during the pandemic.
Some point to the pessimism young people in Japan hold toward the future, many frustrated with work pressure and economic stagnation.
Japan’s economy has stalled since its asset bubble burst in the early 1990s. The country’s GDP growth slowed from 4.9% in 1990 to 0.3% in 2019, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, the average real annual household income declined from 6.59 million yen ($50,600) in 1995 to 5.64 million yen ($43,300) in 2020, according to 2021 data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
The government has launched various initiatives to address the population decline over the past few decades, including new policies to enhance child care services and improve housing facilities for families with children. Some rural towns have even begun paying couples who live there to have children.
Experts warn of talent erosion after nearly 1m workers left in 2022
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis are leaving for jobs abroad amid the country's financial and security woes -- a brain drain that threatens to further damage the struggling economy.
Figures from the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment show that 832,339 Pakistanis went overseas for work in 2022, the most since 2016 and the third-highest tally on record. Saudi Arabia was the most preferred destination, attracting 514,909.
Ahmad Jamal, an immigration lawyer in Quetta, said the actual number of people leaving is much larger since the data only covers work visas. He said many categories of emigrants are not included, such as those traveling out on permanent residency visas, student visas and family settlement visas.
The dire state of the Pakistani economy offers few reasons to stay. It is on the verge of collapse, with foreign exchange reserves down to $2.9 billion, enough to cover barely three weeks of imports. Inflation hit 27.6% on the year in January. Per capita income stands at $1,658.
Last week, talks with the International Monetary Fund for the revival of a $7 billion Extended Fund Facility -- vital for keeping the country afloat -- ended inconclusively.
Young Pakistanis, who account for the majority of the population, face bleak prospects. Pakistan's National Human Development Report in 2017 said 64% were younger than 30, while 29% were between the ages of 15 and 29.
"From security to the economy there are many repelling factors, which push youngsters like me away from my homeland," said Atiya Khan, a 25-year business development professional who has been living in the United Arab Emirates with her parents for two decades. She said she does not want to go back to Pakistan and is looking for options to settle in the West.
Tania Baloch, a journalist who previously published a magazine called Balochistan Inside in Karachi, emigrated to Canada a couple of years ago. "I left Pakistan because the future of my kids was not secure there," she said.
Such security concerns have only grown recently, with a surge in terrorism. But many worry that the exodus, particularly skilled workers who accounted for about 90,000 of the departures in 2022, will only compound Pakistan's problems.
Yousaf Nazar, a London-based economist formerly with Citigroup, said anecdotal evidence suggests that Pakistan's business graduates do relatively better abroad. "If some of them leave, it makes the capacity issue [in Pakistan's economy] even worse," he told Nikkei.
Young people are not the only ones rushing for the exit.
Multiple immigration experts said people in their 40s and 50s are also trying to move out of the country.
Jamal, the Quetta lawyer who deals with dozens of hopeful migrants on a monthly basis, said many of his customers are middle-aged or older. "It's unbelievable that a rising number of relatively older people are seriously exploring options to move out of Pakistan due to security and economic issues," he said.
Jamal added that most of the people are liquidating their assets or borrowing loans in Pakistan for immigration and leaving with no intention of returning.
"I know people who once settled abroad and then returned to Pakistan to serve their country," he added. "Now they are also doing their best to revive their immigration status and move out of the country again."
Some downplay the issue. A government official dealing with immigration, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, argued that the issue is being blown out of proportion.
He said that "800,000 moving, out of a 220 million population, barely makes 0.4% and hence it's not as big an issue as the media is making it."
POIs: 13.5 million
NRIs: 18.7 million
Total: 32.2 million
USA 4.5 million
UAE 3.5 million
Malaysia 3 million
Saudi Arabia 2.6 million
Myanmar 2 million
UK 1.8 million
Canada 1.6 million
Sri Lanka 1.6 million
South Africa 1.6 million
Fewer people might mean slower growth in China, which will be felt by the U.S. and beyond.
“They’ve now become, you know, the center of the global manufacturing superhighway and are typically the largest contributor to growth every year,” said Scott Kennedy with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C.
Chinese officials often credit the so-called one-child policy for preventing over 400 million births, but some analysts say China’s population would have declined regardless.
“It’s just simply a rule across all countries, that as you urbanize, and as you get a more educated female population that enters the workforce, fertility numbers fall,” Kennedy said.
The number of Chinese workers is already declining; according to the World Bank, in 2001, China had 10 workers to support one retiree.
“In 2020, that was down to five working folks for each retiree and by 2050 it’ll be down to two,” Kennedy said.
He believes China still has time to offset the effects of population decline, including by boosting productivity, increasing the retirement age and lifting restrictions on people from rural areas to freely settle in cities with their families.
“I don’t think the problem has become so severe that demography is destiny, and China is destined to radically slow down and its chances of becoming an economic superpower breaking out of the middle income trap have been dashed,” Kennedy said.
“[But] these are pretty significant challenges.”
28-year-old Joy Yu’s parents each had three siblings. As they were growing up in the 1970s, the Chinese government started to limit the number of babies born.
Government statistics show on average a woman in China went from having about three babies in the late 1970s to just one.
Four decades on, China’s leaders are asking women to have three children again, which doesn’t sit well for Yu, an only child.
“For me to give birth to three children, my future husband must be rich enough to make sure I can live well without a job. This is a big challenge,” Yu said.
Last year, China’s population dropped for the first time in six decades by 850,000. That still leaves the country with 1.41 billion people but if the decline continues, there will be multiple impacts on the economy.
China began enforcing birth limits in the late 1970s when the country was poor and there were too many mouths to feed.
In a Chinese propaganda film called the Disturbance of Gan Quan Village, the birth restrictions were justified on economic grounds.
“We should put our energy into getting rich rather than keep having children,” says one woman in the film.
She’s sitting among a group of women picking corn kernels off the cob. “Aren’t we getting poorer with each child we have,” she says. The rest of the group nods in agreement.
Chinese leaders enforced, sometimes brutally, the so-called one-child policy in 1979, just as the country was coming out of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution.
“The post-[Chairman] Mao leadership thought that economic development would be the new basis for the party’s political legitimacy and based on pseudo-scientific and demographic projections, limiting birth to one child per married heterosexual couple,” said Yun Zhou, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.
There were exceptions. Some ethnic minority groups could have up to three children. People from rural areas could try for a second child if their first-born was not a boy. Later, if both parents had no siblings they could have two children. Starting in 2016, China raised the birth limit for everyone to two children, but there was no sustained baby bump.