Policies cannot fully reverse decline in labor force: report

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/17 23:28:39 Last Updated: 2016/9/18 7:16:07

Higher productivity can ensure population bonus

China will have a second chance of gaining "population bonus" if the country's labor force population can raise its productivity, according to a report released by Liu Fengliang, a professor at the Renmin University of China, on Saturday during an economic forum.

The report noted that as the working population in China has undergone dramatic changes, the country has lost its population advantage, and the situation cannot be changed by external efforts such as adjustments in birth policies, domestic finance portal finance.sina.com reported on Saturday.

However, Zhai Zhenwu, a professor at the School of Sociology and Population Studies at the Renmin University of China, said that although China's working-aged population has shrunk in recent years, that doesn't mean that China is losing its population advantage.

"'Population bonus' is a concept which means the working-aged population, people between 16 and 60 years old, account for more than 60 percent of the overall population in an economy. If we look at China's situation, the ratio of the country's working-aged population reached a peak of about 69 percent around 2012. The percentage started to fall since then but is still above 60 percent. Therefore, though the population bonus has dropped in the country, it has not disappeared yet," he told the Global Times on Saturday.

But Zhai echoed views in the report that the trend of China's dwindling population won't reverse because of government measures to adjust relevant policies.

"Government policies, including the one to let couples have a second child, would slow the pace of population decrease, but they wouldn't fundamentally change the trend of shrinking workforce," Zhai noted.

But the report noted that China can still have a second phase of population bonus as the government increases the quality as well as efficiency of China's workforce and boosts the participation level of the middle-aged and the elderly people in labor activities.

Zhai said that the direction of focus on quality instead of quantity of the population is "correct," as the domestic economy needs to shift away from a pattern that relies on cheap labor force.

Zhai also noted that the concept of the second population bonus mentioned by Liu is not the same as the traditional concept based on the ratio of the working-aged population.

He stressed that a falling working population does not necessarily result in a slumping economy.

"The key to economic growth is labor productivity," Zhai noted.

"As of the end of 2015, China has about 930 million working-aged population and total economic output of about $10 trillion, which showed that China does not lack labor force; instead, it needs better productivity," Zhai said, adding that if China's labor force has enhanced productivity, the economy will improve even with a slumping working-age population.

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