Population Matters statement on China’s population

17 January 2023, immediate use

In response to the news that China has announced that its population is now shrinking, Robin Maynard, executive director of Population Matters, says:

Our planet is already paying a heavy price for China’s pursuit of economic growth and the size of its population. Currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with emissions still rising per capita, a smaller, stabilising Chinese population should be celebrated for helping to curb climate change, reduce pollution and improve human wellbeing – not least, that of its own people.

The deep concern here is that the Chinese government will tighten the screw on reproductive rights – just as they did under the One Child policy, but this time to push population growth. That is already underway. We’ve seen increasing rhetoric stigmatising the childfree, and restricting access to health services and personal choice over abortion and vasectomies.

Adjusting to an ageing population does represent some challenges and shifts in mindsets by policymakers, but the positive policy tools and proven solutions exist. To put this in perspective, although many countries may be ageing, half the world’s population today is under 30. There’s no shortage of young people globally.

China has one of the earliest retirement ages of any major country, and the Chinese workplace is also notoriously ageist, with active discrimination against those over just 35 years old. The Chinese government could better manage this inevitable transition through encouraging and mobilising an older workforce instead of obsessing about birth rate – and move from the pursuit of economic power to one prioritising wellbeing, for the good of its own citizens and for the world.



Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications

T: +44 (0)208 123 9170 

E: alistair.currie@populationmatters.org


Emissions. Source: Carbon Atlas http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions

Chinese restrictions on reproductive rights: Population Matters https://populationmatters.org/gilead-watch-protect-womens-rights-from-pronatal-politicians/

Retirement: Currently retirement age is 60 for men, 55 for women and 50 for women in some blue collar occupations. OECD (2021) https://www.oecd.org/els/public-pensions/PAG2021-country-profile-China.pdf ; South China Morning Post  (2021) https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3142226/chinas-looming-population-crisis-throws-spotlight-workplace

Ageism: Peterson Institute for International Economics (2021) https://www.piie.com/blogs/china-economic-watch/chinas-population-ages-age-discrimination-chinas-workplace-needs-end

Population Matters is a UK-based charity working globally to achieve a sustainable future for people and planet. Our mission is to drive positive, large-scale action through fostering choices that help achieve a sustainable human population and regenerate our environment.


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