by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
China has a problem: not enough people.
If you didn’t see that one coming, you haven’t been paying attention.
More precisely, China’s problem is its shrinking work force.
According to Beijing’s official numbers, China’s work force has declined by 25 million workers — about the combined work forces of California and Ohio — since topping out in 2011. Everywhere in China’s industrial belt, help-wanted signs hang outside the factories.
After years of officially restricting couples to one child, the cabal that rules China — never forget that this is a one-party police state — relaxed that policy a few years ago. But Chinese people did not start having more children. They’re having fewer, for the same reasons many Western societies have seen declining birth rates: Would-be parents dread the expense of children, and women delay motherhood as they pursue professional goals rather than maternal ones. The Communist bosses want Chinese couples to have more children, but Chinese couples are not obliging.
Some Chinese officials blame the declining work force for the country’s declining economic growth. The Chinese economy is still growing, and growing quickly by many standards — its 6.6 percent growth last year is more than twice what President Trump dreams of, with his unfulfilled promise of sustained 3 percent growth — but, long-term, the Chinese forecast is normalcy, at least as far as economic growth is concerned.
For a regime that has based its legitimacy on dramatic economic growth, normalcy is a crisis.