Occasional Paper

A Timely Economic Demography Lesson from China for the G20

The 2019 Japanese Presidency of the G20 has added demographics, population ageing in particular, to the list of global risks for discussion. The G20 timing could not be more pertinent: 2018 marked the first time in history that persons aged over 64 out-number children under-five; some 85% of global GDP now generated in countries that are home to newly rapidly ageing populations. The majority of countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, meantime, confront rapidly rising working-age population shares for whom jobs do not appear in the pipeline. The rest of this brief is structured as follows: Part 1 explains China’s contemporary experience of demographic dividend and development; Part 2 outlines the Chinese concept of ‘getting old before rich’ and its extrapolation into the Economic Demography Transition; Part 3 discusses the logic of China’s fears of ‘getting old before getting rich’; Part 4 draws lessons from China’s experience of the economic demography transition thus far for today’s “poor-young” countries; Part 5 offers concluding thoughts and calls for enhanced global dialogue and demographics-related experience sharing.