China’s onechild policy adopted in the late 1970s may no longer be necessary as its middle class grows andits population ages, according to Singapore’s former ambassador to the United Nations.
The demographic shift in Asia’s largest economy highlights challenges faced by governments across the regionas Singapore’s Parliament this week debates its population trajectory through the next decade, KishoreMahbubani said in an interview with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Radio yesterday.
“At some point in time, China will have to wake up and say that its onechild policy is no longer necessary inChina today,” said Mahbubani, who is now dean of the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan YewSchool of Public Policy. The nation may “grow old before it grows rich,” he said.
China’s economy will probably cross a threshold between 2020 and 2025 when the supply of lowcostworkers runs out, necessitating a shift in the nation’s growth model, according to an International MonetaryFund working paper last month. Researchers from the world’s most populous nation said last year thegovernment should ease the onechild policy as soon as possible to cope with an aging population and laborshortage.
Chinese incomes rose faster in the countryside than in cities for a third straight year in 2012, a trend that maypersist for a while as a declining workingage population helps push up migrant laborers’ pay. Rural percapita net income, which includes migrant workers’ wages, rose more than that of urban residents in 2010 forthe first time since 1997.
“Most people who are looking at Asia believe that you can be very optimistic with what is coming,” as itsmiddle class grows and the UN achieves its goal of halving global poverty by 2015, Mahbubani said.
The emerging middle classes will make more demands on their governments, such as demanding more actionto curb pollution, he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama must convince countries such as China and India to agree to a UN treaty thatwould limit fossil fuel emissions starting in 2020 in order for it to be effective, former aides said at aDecember conference in Doha.“
The Asian leaders are only now beginning to realize, hey, we are doing so well our time has come, and nowwe need to do more in terms of taking care of global challenges,” Mahbubani said. “How they will actuallybehave, well, actually a lot will depend on how they are treated.
By Sharon Chen, Business Week