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China’s Crashing Birthrate Will Leave Millions of Teachers Jobless in the Coming Years

Decades of China’s one-child policy have created a demographic nightmare for the world’s second-largest economy, and millions of school teachers could soon be left without a job as birthrates tumble. 

Chinese schools have historically had to crowd classrooms with as many as 50 students per teacher. If those classes don’t scale back, China could see a surplus of 1.5 million primary school teachers and 370,000 middle school teachers by 2035, according to a Tuesday report from the South China Morning Post.

Last year marked the second consecutive year that China’s population shrank, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The birth rate dropped from 6.77 births to a record-low 6.39 births per 1,000 people.

Meanwhile, in 2021 the number of kindergarten students saw its first decline in nearly 20 years, Ministry of Education figures show. Total primary school students, too, declined in 2022 for the first time in a decade.

One researcher at the China National Academy of Educational Sciences told the South China Morning Post that fewer students will “inevitably” create redundancies among teaching staff, depending on the region. In their estimate, financial burdens stemming from the broader economic turmoil will also lead local governments to recruit fewer teachers moving forward.

In 2015, Beijing reversed the one-child policy, and authorities have been trying to motivate its population to have more children since then. For instance, in the populous eastern city of Hangzhou, the local government started offering parents about $2,800 for having a third child.

Similar incentives have sprouted up across the country in recent years, but the demographics have only worsened — and not just among its youth population. A study from the consultancy Terry Group in 2023 concluded that China’s aging population will prevent the economy from competing with the US and other rivals on the world stage.

In the firm’s view, it’s not just population decline that’s a threat, but the climbing share of elderly which will push “China’s overall dependency burden back up.”

“In 1975, there were thirteen times as many children as elderly in China,” Terry Group researchers wrote. “By 2050, the UN projects that there will be twice as many elderly as children.”

Demographic challenges aside, Beijing is also navigating historic real estate turmoil, deflation, and extremely bearish sentiment in its stock market.




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