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What China’s Falling Birthrate Means for Its Economy – Barron's

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People walk along a street in Beijing on March 5, 2021.


Noel Celis / AFP via Getty Images

The world’s most populous country has a population problem. It’s shrinking.

It’s a serious issue with numerous social and economic ramifications, but there is irony as well. After China’s population boom in the 1950s to 1970s Mao era—nearly doubling in a generation—demographers realized the situation was untenable. Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping in 1979 then implemented the one-child policy.

It’s this controversial change of course that is coming back to bite China. China saw a 15% decline in the number of newborns registered in 2020, according to the country’s Ministry of Public Security.

Alongside its aging population, that means it is on a path toward a declining workforce that will not be able to support pensions and other social programs.

“China’s falling fertility rate will accelerate population aging, a process which is already well under way and creating a headwind for growth as the size of the labor force continues to shrink in absolute terms,” Albert Park, head and chair professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told Barron’s.

“China can address the growth challenges posed by population aging by relaxing its immigration policy, extending retirement age and investing more to make older workers more productive, establishing comprehensive healthcare and pension systems that support better health (and productivity) over the life cycle, and reduce the social costs of population aging, he said. China can also invest in infrastructure, innovation, and education that will support steady growth in productivity, he said.

China has not much budged on its notoriously stingy immigration policy, doling out a mere 1,576 “green cards” in 2016, the last year for which numbers are public. By contrast, the U.S. grants over 1 million each year.

As for the retirement age, China has yet to actually raise it but last year created a firestorm when it announced it would soon begin to do so “in a gradual manner,” without providing further details.

China relaxed the one-child policy in 2013 for some families and began allowing all families to have two children in 2016, in hopes of encouraging a baby boom. The results were underwhelming.

China last month released a proposal urging its northeastern provinces to study the possibility of completely abolishing limits on the number of children families can have. The region—China’s struggling rust belt—has the lowest fertility rates in the country. The study, authorities said, would inform a decision the National Health Commission would make for the region, and possibly the country, on abolishing birth restrictions.

China is experiencing what other rich countries have encountered. It’s widely known that as countries become wealthier, woman have fewer children. But other issues are at play. In 2019, China’s marriage hit its lowest rate in 14 years. The birthrate in 2019 was the lowest since modern China was founded in 1949.

The math seems not in China’s favor. It takes roughly two children per family to maintain a population level. China’s rate is currently 1.5.

But not all experts see the situation as so dire.

“I do not think at all about why the fertility rate is what it is, only about its impact on the future of the economy,” Barbara M. Fraumeni, a Special-Term Professor of the Central University for Economics and Finance in Beijing, told Barron’s.

“In future years, the contribution to economic growth of young Chinese as they enter the workforce is expected to increase relative to that of current working age individuals,” Fraumeni said, based on data she and colleagues have analyzed along with the China Center for Human Capital and Labor Market Research of the Central University of Finance and Economics.

Tanner Brown covers China for Barron’s and MarketWatch.

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Economy

CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.00 percent to 19,228.03

* Leading the index were Corus Entertainment Inc <CJRb.TO​>, up 7.0%, Methanex Corp​, up 6.4%, and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc​, higher by 5.5%.

* Lagging shares were Denison Mines Corp​​, down 7.0%, Trillium Therapeutics Inc​, down 7.0%, and Nexgen Energy Ltd​, lower by 5.7%.

* On the TSX 93 issues rose and 128 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 26 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 183.7 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Nutrien Ltd and Organigram Holdings Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 1.61 points, or 1.4%, while the financials sector climbed 0.67 points, or 0.2%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.44%, or $0.26, to $59.34 a barrel. Brent crude  fell 0.24%, or $0.15, to $63.05 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.3% for the year.

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Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar advanced against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as data showing the economy added far more jobs than expected in March offset lower oil prices, with the loonie also gaining for the week.

Canada added 303,100 jobs in March, triple analyst expectations, driven by the recovery across sectors hit by shutdowns in December and January to curb the new coronavirus.

“The Canadian economy keeps beating expectations,” said Michael Goshko, corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions. “It seems like the economy is adapting to these closures and restrictions.”

Stronger-than-expected economic growth could pull forward the timing of the first interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, Goshko said.

The central bank has signaled that its benchmark rate will stay at a record low of 0.25% until 2023. It is due to update its economic forecasts on April 21, when some analysts expect it to cut bond purchases.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2530 to the greenback, or 79.81 U.S. cents, the biggest gain among G10 currencies. For the week, it was also up 0.3%.

Still, speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar to the lowest since December, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. As of April 6, net long positions had fallen to 2,690 contracts from 6,518 in the prior week.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was pressured by rising supplies from major producers. U.S. crude prices settled 0.5% lower at $59.32 a barrel, while the U.S. dollar gained ground against a basket of major currencies, supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields.

Canadian government bond yields also climbed and the curve steepened, with the 10-year up 4.1 basis points at 1.502%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Canadian dollar rebounds from one-week low ahead of jobs data

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, recovering from a one-week low the day before, as the level of oil prices bolstered the medium-term outlook for the currency and ahead of domestic jobs data on Friday.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.4% higher at 1.2560 to the greenback, or 79.62 U.S. cents. On Wednesday, it touched its weakest intraday level since March 31 at 1.2634.

“We have seen partial retracement from the decline over the last couple of days,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

“With oil prices where they are – let’s call WCS still at roughly $49 a barrel – I still think CAD has room to strengthen over the medium term and even over a one-week horizon.”

Western Canadian Select (WCS), the heavy blend of oil that Canada produces, trades at a discount to the U.S. benchmark. U.S. crude futures settled 0.3% lower at $59.60 a barrel, but were up nearly 80% since last November.

The S&P 500 closed at a record high as Treasury yields fell following softer-than-anticipated labor market data, while the U.S. dollar fell to a two-week low against a basket of major currencies.

Canada‘s employment report for March, due on Friday, could offer clues on the Bank of Canada‘s policy outlook. The central bank has become more upbeat about prospects for economic growth, while some strategists expect it to cut bond purchases at its next interest rate announcement on April 21.

On a more cautious note for the economy, Ontario, Canada‘s most populous province, initiated a four-week stay-at-home order as it battles a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadian government bond yields were lower across a flatter curve in sympathy with U.S. Treasuries. The 10-year fell 3.3 basis points to 1.469%.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith;Editing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)

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