China’s population could go down to as much as a billion by the end of the century, according to scholars at this year’s World Economic Forum. With approximately 1.3 billion citizens, the country is the world’s most populous nation to date.
The estimate was made by Zheng Zhenzhen of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. China’s population was last at one billion people in 1980, People’s Daily noted.
Some experts even disagree with Zheng’s estimate, saying that a billion may actually be too much. University of Wisconsin’s Huang Wenzhen predicted that the country’s population will 580 million by 2100 and 280 million by 2150, factoring in birth policy, birth rate and increasing life expectancy.
The Central Committee of China’s Communist Party announced the lift of the country’s one-child policy back in October, ending decades of restraint that began in the late 1970’s. At the time, it had been brutally enforced with expensive fines, forced sterilizations and abortions, according to the Washington Post.
Since January 1, 2016, all couples are permitted to have a second baby. As a result, demographer Lu Jiehua told the outlet that a baby boom is expected in 2017 and 2018. These second babies will now be considered legal.
As per National Geographic, China chose to end its one-child policy after an imbalance of men and older people outweighed the younger demographic. The policy was originally conceived to boost economic growth, but if it continued, the country would suffer a diminished workforce and aging population altogether.
For now, Huang pointed that only 17 million babies are born each year. Things will be even more challenging as Chinese women aged 23 to 30 are expected to decrease by 40% in the next decade.
The United Nations, however, appears more optimistic. In its 2015 World Populations Prospects, the organization predicted China’s population to hit as much as 1.004 billion by the end of the century, though the projected lower limit is 613 million. The world, on the other hand, is purported to have 11.213 billion people.
The debate on China’s future population will go on, but it may be beneficial to wait few more years to observe changes coming from the one-child policy lift.