By 2045, there will be nearly 350 million people in China aged over 65. The rapidly aging society is the legacy of a huge baby boom that was abruptly halted by the introduction of the one-child policy in 1979. Over the long term, this trend threatens to drag on economic growth. There were five Chinese taxpayers for every senior citizen in 2010; by 2030, there will be just two. But for businesses that stay ahead of the demographic curve, there will be big opportunities—another 200 million new customers. Slowly but surely, digitally-savvy seniors are changing the game for brands in China.
Unlike its developed counterparts, China is aging before it gets prosperous. Its population structure is like Japan’s of the 1980s, while its per-capita GDP level has only reached that of Japan in the early 1970s. By far the biggest issue is China’s low birth rate, which declined sharply in the 1980s as a result of the one-child policy. In reaction to the problem, China started to relax its family planning policy since 2013, allowing a family to have two, but so far the results have been lukewarm. Is it too late to climb out of the demographic trap?