China‘s birthrate dropped last year to its lowest level since the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, adding to concerns of a long-term challenge for the government, as the ageing society and shrinking workforce pile pressure on a slowing economy.
To avoid a demographic crisis, the Communist government abolished the one-child policy in 2015 to allow people to have two children, but the change has not resulted in an increase in pregnancies.
In 2019, the birthrate stood at 10.48 per 1,000 people, down slightly from the year before, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Friday.
The number of births has now fallen for three consecutive years. Still, there were 14.65 million babies born in 2019.
Many young couples in China are reluctant to have children because they cannot afford to pay for healthcare and education alongside expensive housing
Meanwhile, divorce rates are hitting records. In the first three quarters of 2019, about 3.1 million couples filed for divorce, compared with 7.1 million couples getting married, according to data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Lowest number of births since 1961
He Yafu, an independent demographer based in southern Guangdong province, said the total number of births in 2019 was the lowest since 1961, the last year of a famine that left tens of millions dead. He said there were approximately 11.8 million births that year.
US-based academic Yi Fuxian, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the AFP news agency that even though China has abolished its one-child policy, there has been a shift in the mindset of the population, with people now used to smaller families.
According to official figures, China’s population stood at 1.4 billion by the end of 2019, increasing by 4.67 million from the year before.
But Fuxian believes that China’s population is over-estimated, and according to his work, the real population “began to decline in 2018”.
While China’s limit on family sizes could be removed altogether eventually, the demographer said citizens are still being punished for having three children, even though some areas have reduced punitive measures.
However, China has recently signalled that it might end limits on family size altogether. A draft of the new Civil Code, due to be introduced at the annual session of the rubber-stamp parliament in March, omits all mention of “family planning”.
‘Slow, long-term problem’
The one-child policy was introduced by former leader Deng Xiaoping to curb population growth and promote economic development, with exceptions for rural families whose first-born was a female, and for ethnic minorities.
The measure was mainly enforced through fines but was also notorious for forced abortions and sterilisations.
The result was dramatic: Fertility rates dropped from 5.9 births per woman in 1970 to about 1.6 in the late 1990s. The rate was below the level needed to replace the population – 2.1 births per woman.
The stagnated birthrate could pose a problem for the economy in the future, as the country’s workforce continued to shrink last year.
The NBS said 896.4 million people were of working age, between 16 and 59, in 2019, a drop from the 897.3 million in 2018.
This marks the eighth consecutive year of decline. The workforce is expected to decline by as much as 23 percent by 2050.
“The demographic problem is a slow, long-term one,” He told AFP.
“Because China’s education levels have been going up, in the short term, the population issue should not impact growth too much,” He told the news agency.
“But in the long run, if the trend continues, it would pose a huge drag on economic growth.”
GRT workers reject tentative agreement; striking Tuesday – KitchenerToday.com
If you’re a transit user in Waterloo Region, you’re going to have to find another way around on Tuesday.
Grand River Transit workers have rejected the tentative contract agreement on the table during a ratification vote.
According to a Tweet from their union office, a strike has been called beginning Tuesday morning.
The tentative contact between Unifor Local 4304 — representing about 700 Grand River Transit/MobilityPLUS operators, dispatchers, fleet mechanics and service attendants — and the Region of Waterloo was reached just before the midnight deadline last Monday.
The Region of Waterloo says in a Tweet they are “disappointed with UNIFOR 4304’s failure to ratify the agreement” and that they “remain available to discuss next steps.”
“The membership has made a very strong statement today that GRT must do better at the bargaining table,” said Local 4304 Local President Tim Jewell.
The Unifor release states they “will work quickly to set up bargaining dates with the employer to work through the remaining issues.”
They say details of the tentative contract will not be released.
On Monday, the region’s CAO Mike Murray told 570 NEWS in the event of a GRT strike, they will make exceptions for mobility buses to help transport those with certain medical needs.
ION is expected to run as normal.
— Unifor Local 4304 (@UniforLocal4304) January 20, 2020
Region is disappointed with UNIFOR 4304’s failure to ratify @GRT_ROW tentative agreement – We remain available to discuss next steps.
— Region of Waterloo (@RegionWaterloo) January 20, 2020
GRT workers vote to strike on Tuesday – CTV News
Workers for Grand River Transit have rejected the latest contract offer from the Region of Waterloo.
They have also called for a strike starting Tuesday morning.
The union says buses will continue to run until the end of normal service on Monday.
Members of Unifor Local 4304 voted on the tentative collective agreement Sunday night.
“The membership has made a very strong statement today that GRT must do better at the bargaining table,” said Local 4304 President Tim Jewell in a press release.
The union says they’ll work quickly to set up a bargaining date with the region to work through the remaining issues.
A strike was originally set for midnight last Tuesday but half an hour before the deadline a tentative agreement was reached.
That meant approximately 700 GRT and MobiltyPlus employees would not walk off the job.
The union represents drivers, mechanics, vehicle service attendants and dispatchers.
They say details of the tentative agreements will not be released.
The Region of Waterloo sent out a statement Sunday night saying they’re disappointed with the vote and are ready for future discussions.
LRT trains will not be affected by any strike action.
Canadian airlines feel the pressure of flight-shaming and the 'Greta effect' – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, January 19, 2020 3:45PM EST
MONTREAL – Swedish may not be the lingua franca of the aviation world, but ask any airline executive about the term “flygskam” and they’ll likely know exactly what it means.
Flygskam – Swedish for “flight shame” – is a growing environmental movement that highlights the flight sector’s carbon footprint, putting pressure on Canadian carriers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while managing the cost of passenger guilt.
“It does seem like a switch has flipped,” says airline expert Seth Kaplan.
“For a while, there was this very incremental recognition of the urgency (of climate change), and then over the past year or so all this has really gotten into the spotlight – aided by Greta Thunberg.”
The Swedish teenage activist, who travelled by racing yacht to a climate summit in New York to avoid flying and its attendant emissions, has focused attention on aviation’s role in global warming, with consequences for travel companies.
The CEO of SAS, one of Scandinavia’s largest carriers, has attributed declining passenger numbers in Sweden to flight shaming. Meanwhile the country’s main train operator, SJ, said it sold 1.5 million more tickets in 2018 than the previous year, thanks to what’s been dubbed the “Greta effect.”
Other European countries are experiencing the same phenomenon. Germany saw a similar decline in domestic flights in 2018, along with a corresponding increase in rail travel.
To combat this trend, airlines are turning to carbon offsets, where they invest in projects such as wind farms and tree planting to compensate for plane-produced carbon dioxide.
Such measures could cost airlines billions, Citigroup Inc. said in a research note last October. The banking conglomerate forecasts that carbon offsetting economy-class flights will cost US$3.8 billion per year within five years.
Carriers could absorb the expense or pass it along to consumers via a higher ticket price, but airlines will struggle in the long run if increased costs deter travellers from flying, Citi said.
If airlines foot the bill themselves, “the cost of carbon offsetting all leisure consumption could be as much as 27 per cent of airlines’ profits by 2025,” wrote analyst Mark Manduca.
Offsetting corporate travel – which Citi defined as business-class seats – will cost another $2.4 billion, reducing airline profits by a further 17 per cent, the report said.
Commercial aviation accounts for about two per cent of global carbon emissions – a far smaller share than that of cars (estimates range between about 15 per cent and 20 per cent) or coal-generated power (30 per cent). “But it emits carbon in a very visible way,” Kaplan said.
“You look up in the sky and you see airplanes flying.”
In Europe, where the European Commission has called for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, airlines have taken big steps in response.
EasyJet announced in November it would begin to offset emissions immediately, a move that they claim makes them the first major airline to operate net-zero carbon flights.
British Airways followed suit and began offsetting all flights within the United Kingdom as of Jan. 1
New York-based JetBlue unveiled plans to go carbon-neutral on all domestic flights starting in July, the first major U.S. carrier to do so.
Canadian airlines have also made efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, albeit less ambitious ones than their European counterparts.
“Using fuel-efficient aircraft is our best hedge against rising fuel costs and improves our carbon footprint,” WestJet Airlines Ltd. spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said in an email. “We are proud to have one of the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets in North America.”
Air Canada has committed to carbon-neutral growth starting this year, meaning Canada’s biggest airline plans to cap net emissions, regardless of expansion.
Other efforts by the airline include more fuel-efficient aircraft and biofuel investment, said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
However, the proliferation of budget carriers and a robust tourism sector is resulting in more emissions even as aircraft become increasingly fuel efficient.
A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that airplane emissions are increasing as much as 50 per cent faster than forecast by the United Nations, whose aviation body predicts aircraft fuel consumption will more than double by 2045.
Europe’s keen awareness and aggressive efforts around climate change may justify a little “tagskryt” – “train-boasting” in Swedish – but travellers on a densely populated continent have a built-in advantage.
“There’s no high-speed rail network here like there is in Europe. The cities are not as closely located as they are in Europe or in Japan. And if I have to go to meetings in Montreal or the West Coast of the United States, flying is my only option due to time and cost concerns,” said Brandon Graver, the Washington D.C.-based airline researcher behind the clean transportation council study.
A lack of investment in high-speed rail by governments in North America is also to blame, experts say, with flights between Montreal and Toronto more appealing in the absence of bullet trains.
Even if Canadian airlines were to proclaim carbon neutrality, its effectiveness remains up in the air.
“There’s been a lot of talk lately that, ‘Look, it’s nice to go and plant trees, but it’s not truly a one-for-one offset – that there’s not enough tree-planting in the world you could do to truly offset the impact of emissions,”’ airline expert Kaplan said.
Nor do carbon offsets address the issue of fossil fuel dependence, according to a recent paper by the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute.
“It’s not the silver bullet … to reducing their emissions, but it’s one option of many – while others would call them modern-day indulgences where you’re paying for your sins,” Graver said.
“We’re hopeful that industry and governments together can come together and come up with a climate goal, an actual action that is beyond just lip service.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2020.
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