As linear projections go, most economists believe the probability that China's economy will be the world's largest in the next two decades is all but certain. One of the primary if often overlooked impediments that will govern how quickly China's economy reaches this point is the country's demographics.
Specifically, the speed China is aging, and the lack of scalable public or private sector solutions to address these concerns. Poorly handled, China's aging could easily become a drag on the nation's economy as resources are diverted to pay for care and, in an often overlooked concern, labor force participation drops as people exit the workforce to take care of their elderly family members. Properly handled, China's elderly could become as attractive a market for senior care operators as hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton have found China's business traveler to be.
China uniquely benefited from its demographic dividend early as it opened to the west; now, the country is rapidly exiting its demographic dividend, which has created a set of problems it will have to face over the next several decades.
Estimates are that by 2040, China will have more patients with dementia than exist in the entire developed world. By 2050, one-third of China's population will be over 60, with a large majority suffering with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer all exacerbated by the country's pollution. Given the many problems that persist in China's core healthcare system around chronic disease, adding a large number of elderly with their unique health complications presents a big challenge. However, these problems are also commercial opportunities for business, and offer the possibility of unique potential partnerships between the Chinese government and various senior care academic institutions, NGOs and for-profit operators.