日期:2011-06-28 11:07



Getting on

The consequences of an ageing population

Jun 23rd 2011 | from the print edition

THE CLIENTELE OF the Le Amor retirement home in the Fragrant Hills of western Beijing are no ordinary folk. Staff boast that one of them taught President Hu Jintao when he was at university. Another is the descendant of a nutritionist who worked for the Empress Dowager Cixi, China’s last great imperial ruler. A third is a former senior official in the party’s top anti-corruption body. By the grim standards of such homes in China, it seems they are being treated well. If they wish, they can rent a suite of rooms, including one for a live-in servant. All rooms have an emergency button.

住在北京西郊香山Le Amor退休公寓里的住户都不是平民百姓。那里的员工自夸退休公寓里的其中一位住户曾经是胡锦涛在大学里的老师。还有一个住户是以前为中国最后一个重量级的帝国统治者——慈禧太后掌厨的御厨的后代。另外,三分之一的共产党最高纪委机构的前高级官员们。从中国的此类住宅的严格规格来看,这些退休干部似乎养尊处优。如果他们想要的话,他们可以租上一套房间,包括一间让寄宿保姆住下的房间。所有房间中都有一个紧急按钮。

The home’s director is coy about how she secured such a desirable rural location for her $10m venture, +away from the city’s downtown smog. Le Amor is one of only a handful of privately run retirement homes in the capital aimed at the well-to-do. Looking after the elderly is a business in its infancy in China, where that task usually falls to the offspring, if any. But Le Amor’s market has very attractive prospects.

Le Amor退休公寓的总裁透露了她为什么要在这个远离城市喧嚣胀气的宜人乡间建立她耗资1000万美元的养老公司。在北京仅有的少数针对富人建立的私营养老院中,Le Amor是其中之一。在养老重担全由子女承担的中国,如果有养老业这个行业的话,它也只是刚刚起步。然而,Le Amor的市场拥有十分诱人的前景。

Over the next few years China will undergo a huge demographic shift. The share of people over 60 in the total population will increase from 12.5% in 2010 to 20% in 2020. By 2030 their number will double from today’s 178m. The dependency ratio—the number of people of non-working age, both young and old, as a proportion of those of working age—will bottom out between 2012 and 2015 at an exceptionally low level before rebounding, says a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Put another way, China’s “demographic dividend”—the availability of lots of young workers—which helped fuel its growth will soon begin to disappear. The overall population will start to grow faster than that of working age. One trigger for this could be a sharp economic slowdown. Many Chinese have recently become familiar with the “Lewis turning point”, named after a 20th-century economist from St Lucia, Arthur Lewis, who said that industrial wages start to rise quickly when a country’s rural labour surplus dries up.

在未来的几年中,中国将会经历一次巨大的人口转变。预计,六十岁以上的人口占总人口的比例将会从2010年的12.5%上升到2020年的20%。到了2030年,中国六十岁以上的人口数量将会是现在178万的两倍之多。中国社会科学院的一份报告指出,中国的抚养率——衡量包括年轻人和老年人的非劳动年龄人口和劳动年龄人口的比值——将会在2012年至2015年之间降到一个极低的水平,直到反弹。另一种说法是,中国的“人口红利”——大量年轻劳动力的供给——曾经刺激了中国经济的增长,它马上就要开始消失了。中国的总人口数量将开始比劳动年龄人口数量增加的更快。这一旦触发就可能产生一次经济急剧放缓。现在,许多中国人已经对“刘易斯拐点”十分熟悉了,“刘易斯拐点”是以一位二十世纪来自圣卢西亚的经济学家Arthur Lewis的名字来命名的,他曾指出当一个国家的农村劳动剩余消失时,该国的工业工资将开始快速上涨。

One way this will show up is in a proliferation of places like Le Amor. A lot of schools will close down. Wang Feng of the Brookings Institution notes that China’s primary-school enrolment dropped from 25.3m in 1995 to 16.7m in 2008. Revoking the one-child policy would probably not make a big difference. Chinese couples have small families mainly because children are expensive, Mr Wang argues. China’s rapid ageing, combined with a shrinking labour force, will “fundamentally reshape the Chinese economy and society”, he suggests. In the next decade the number of people aged 20-24 will drop by 50%, Mr Wang predicts.

非劳动年龄人口的增长会以像Le Amor.这样的养老院扩张的形式出现。许多学校将会停学。Brookings研究所的王峰指出,中国的中学录取人数从1995年的2530万降到了2008年的1670万。取消独生子女政策可能也不会使这产生较大的改观。王峰指出,中国夫妇选择三口之家是因为抚养孩子的成本高昂。同时,他还指出,中国迅速的老龄化,随同劳动力萎缩会彻底的重塑中国的经济和社会。王峰预计,在未来的几十年中,中国20至24岁人口的数量将会下降到50%。

Optimists believe China still has several more years before the economic impact of an ageing population becomes apparent. China’s commerce minister, Chen Deming, said in March 2010 that the country could still enjoy another decade of “demographic dividends”. In a report last year Morgan Stanley pointed to 80m-100m surplus labourers in the countryside who could be employed in urban areas (although as this special report has argued, that might not be easy). It also expressed optimism about continuing productivity gains from rising levels of education and technology use.


In search of cheap young workers

Still, the redrawing of China’s economic map is unmistakable. A decade ago, impoverished migrants gathered outside factories in cities like Dongguan, desperate for work. Now Dongguan’s streets are full of banners and notices advertising jobs. Wage rises are beginning to accelerate. According to Stephen Green of Standard Chartered, they have risen by 9-15% this year in the Pearl River Delta around Dongguan. Part of the increase is government-driven. Local authorities (local governments)have been raising minimum wages, and the new five-year plan calls for increases averaging 13% annually, nearly twice as fast as the target for GDP growth. But the main reason is a diminishing labour supply, helped in the delta by an uptick in labour activism. A local academic says that a strike at a Honda car-parts factory last year provoked more than 200 copycat strikes and protests.

尽管如此,重绘中国的经济地图是必然的。十年前,穷困的农民工聚集到像东莞这样的城市的工厂外,拼命地工作。现在,在东莞的街头,遍布着招聘广告的横幅和公告。东莞的工资上涨开始加速了。根据渣打银行的Stephen Green所说,今年,东莞附近的珠三角城市里的工资都上涨了9%到15%。工资上涨部分是政府推进的。当地政府提高离最低工资限额,并且在政府的新的五年计划中,要求工资每年平均上涨13%,这将近比当地gdp计划增长速度快两倍。但是,工资上涨的主要原因是劳动力供给的缩减,这是由于珠三角地区势头高涨的劳动激进主义运动。一位当地的学者指出,去年在本田汽车配件工厂里的一个罢工工人至少激起了200个罢工者和抗议者的盲目追随。

Manufacturing is beginning to move inland to areas where labour is more plentiful and cheaper. Chongqing has been a big beneficiary. Morgan Stanley says the city is turning into the largest laptop manufacturing base in Asia. Its electronics industry is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Foreigners invested $6.3 billion in Chongqing in 2010, up by 58% on the year before.


Meanwhile, local governments across the country will have to cope with a fast-rising population of retired people whose pensions, if any, will have to be paid for by contributions from a shrinking working population. The central government has been trying to help, introducing a rural pension scheme that is due to cover the whole of the countryside by 2020. In rural areas the dependency ratio will rise far more steeply than in cities as young people move out and the elderly stay behind. But again money is a problem. As with schools and medical services, the central government makes the plans but leaves it to local governments to put up the lion’s share of funding.


In the cities decent pensions are almost as rare, except among workers in the privileged state sector. In 2008 only 17% of migrants in urban areas were enrolled in any pension scheme at all, the government admits. Young urban couples, many of them without siblings, will find themselves with four parents to look after and will themselves have only one child (known as the 4-2-1 phenomenon). If they are sensible, they will save hard to prepare for such a future, which will not help the government’s efforts to shift China towards more consumption-led growth.


A big increase in the retirement age is overdue. In practice this is now around 56. But the official age of 60 for men and 50 for women (55 for civil servants) has not changed since 1951, when average life expectancy was 46 compared with today’s 73. Like their counterparts in the West, many workers groan about having to plod on for longer. Online polls, which are likely to reflect the views of younger people, have found strong opposition to any rise in the retirement age. Many fear that it could make it even harder for university graduates to find jobs (last year 6.3m students graduated from Chinese universities, up from 1m in 1999, so competition is fierce). When French workers went on strike last year over plans to raise their retirement age, officials in China hastily denied reports that they were planning to do anything of the sort. The people’s will is almost as much of an obstacle to reform in China as the party’s.


  • overalladj. 全部的,全体的,一切在内的 adv. 总的来说
  • populationn. 人口 ,(全体)居民,人数
  • oppositionn. 反对,敌对,在野党
  • reflectv. 反映,反射,归咎
  • demographicadj. 人口统计学的
  • pearln. 珍珠 v. (用珍珠)装饰,呈珍珠状 adj. 珍
  • senioradj. 年长的,高级的,资深的,地位较高的 n. 年长
  • dividendn. 红利,股息,意外之财,彩金,被除数
  • phenomenonn. 现象,迹象,(稀有)事件
  • basen. 基底,基础,底部,基线,基数,(棒球)垒,[化]碱