China Population and Development Studies

HOME >China Population and Development Studies

CPDS Abstracts of No. 3, 2022

Baochang Gu Applicability of the second demographic transition in Asia

The special issue was initiated with the intention for a discussion of the possible applicability of the conceptual framework of Second Demographic Transition (SDT) in Asian countries as a means to analyzing and predicting the population dynamics in the 21st century under the scenario of the fertility down below the replacement in Asia.

We are extremely honored to have invited Dr. Ron J. Lesthaeghe, one of prominent proponents of the concept of SDT, and Dr. Stuart Gietel-Basten, an internationally renowned scholar on Asian demographics together with me as guest editors for the special issue. Not only have both of them dedicated themselves enormously over the whole process of the editing work, but also written their insightful and critical commentaries especially for the special issue, all these efforts will certainly ensure the special issue to be most informative to the Chinese and international audience who are interested and concerned.

Website of the paper


Ron J. Lesthaeghe The second demographic transition: also a 21st century Asian challenge?

Abstract This introduction aims at placing the unfolding sub-patterns of the Asian “Second Demographic Transition” (SDT) in a global context by contrasting them with those of societies with other than patriarchal histories. Firstly, fertility transitions to below-replacement level can be achieved as part of the first “altruistic” transition without any SDT traits being present. Secondly, Asian societies are by no means immune to genuine SDT developments, as illustrated by the emergence and spread of pre-marital cohabitation. Thirdly, the SDT cohabitation pattern is still conservative: it is followed by marriage, pregnancies result in shotgun marriages or abortions, and parenthood within consensual unions remains rare. Also divorce rates are low. But it is also argued that all Asian cases are still at the beginning of the possible SDT evolution or have barely started it, and that old ways can die off rather quickly with the succession of generations. Finally, it is shown that the cultural component, i.e. the “Willingness” condition, can act as a bottleneck slowing down the transition to a new pattern of behavior. We therefore illustrate on a global scale how the spread of cohabitation is part of a broader ethical revolution stressing individual rather than societal discretion in matters of life and death. On the basis of these profiles we expect stronger resistance to SDT patterns of partnership formation in Hindu and Muslim societies.

Keywords Second demographic transition·World family systems·Unmarried cohabitation·Asian prospects·Ethics revolution·Individual autonomy·Sub-replacement fertility

Website of the paper


Jia Yu & Yu Xie Is there a Chinese pattern of the second demographic transition?

Abstract The Second Demographic Transition (SDT) is a useful theoretical framework for explaining the recent trend in many countries of very low fertility combined with alternative union and family types. Although past studies have observed the SDT in many Western societies, whether it is applicable to East Asia remains unclear. Capitalizing on data from the Chinese Census and China Family Panel Studies, we provide estimates of key behavioral and ideational indicators of the SDT. We find that union formation in China has trended increasingly toward patterns commonly observed in the West, including delayed age of marriage and the common practice of premarital cohabitation. While having a lowest-low fertility rate, China has not experienced rising nonmarital childbirths, a key component of the SDT. However, we observe growing tolerance toward nonmarital childbearing and childlessness. Marriages remain relatively stable in China, especially among couples with children. Taken together, our analysis suggests that typically coincident changes in patterns of family behavior associated with the SDT are not occurring simultaneously in China. Moreover, ideational changes are preceding behavioral changes, particularly in attitudes toward nonmarital childbearing and childlessness. Our research suggests a different pattern of the SDT in China, which has been heavily influenced by Confucian culture.

Keywords The second demographic transition· Chinese pattern·Family changes·Marriage and childbearing

Website of the paper


James M. Raymo The second demographic transition in Japan: a review of the evidence

Abstract Despite a half century of below-replacement fertility, Japan is typically not included in discussions and evaluations of the second demographic transition (SDT), a widely referenced framework for understanding family changes and attitudinal shifts associated with very low fertility. I address this limitation by drawing upon a range of published research and data sources to provide an empirical basis for thinking about how the Japanese experience does or does not conform to the general patterns of behavioral and attitudinal change associated with the SDT in the West. From this evidence, it seems clear that the prototypical pattern of family change in Northern and Western Europe has only partially emerged in Japan. The same is true of attitudes, particularly those related to gender. Consistent with depictions of the SDT in Europe, Japan has experienced substantial delays in marriage and childbearing along with notable increases in non-marital cohabitation and divorce. However, non-marital childbearing has remained at negligibly low levels and cohabiting unions have not emerged as an alternative to marriage. Attitudinal data show that endorsement of conventional family patterns and gender roles has declined, but remains at higher levels than in most SDT countries. Taken as a whole, these data describe a distinctive path to very low fertility in which universal forces of social and family change interact with strong normative expectations of two-parent families characterized by a clear gender division of labor.

Keywords Fertility·Family·Second demographic transition·Japan

Website of the paper


Ariane Utomo,  Aris Ananta,  Diahhadi Setyonaluri & Calvin Aryaputra A second demographic transition in Indonesia?

Abstract As a predominantly Muslim and ethnically diverse new democracy in Asia, Indonesia is a timely case to study how the contending forces of development and social change are reflected in changing norms and practices around family formation. This paper examines the extent to which the second demographic transition (SDT) theory can provide a primary framework to understand contemporary patterns of fertility, marriage and family change in Indonesia. Against the backdrop of socio-political change following Reformasi in 1998, we found emerging demographic features typically associated with societies in later stages of fertility transition. These include fertility below replacement in some regions; increasing age at first marriage, non-marriage, and divorce rates; and growing diversity in household/family forms. As the vast regions of Indonesia is economically, culturally, and demographically heterogeneous, these key features of SDT are not likely to emerge and unfold in a uniform manner. Further, these demographic shifts are taking place amidst multiple tensions and contradictions in the nature and direction of ideational change pertaining to marriage and the family. We argue that the prevailing ideational change driving the shifts in marriage, fertility, and the family within Indonesia is neither unilinear nor singular in nature. Emerging ideational change embodying individualism, secularism, and post-materialism—originally proposed in SDT theory to be the primary drivers of fertility decline in post-industrial Western Europe—can overlap with popular values promoting de-secularization and the strengthening of familial institutions. As a demographic framework, the SDT theory is an important and useful starting point. But it needs to be reevaluated by considering the complex socio-political and increasingly precarious economic terrains behind fertility transition, as well as marriage and family change in post-Reformasi Indonesia.

Keywords Indonesia·Fertility·Marriage·Family·Second demographic transition·Islam·Diversity

Website of the paper


Leela Visaria India’s date with second demographic transition

Abstract Using data from various sources, this paper discusses the recently documented below replacement level fertility in India in the context of the universality of marriage of girls, most of which are arranged by the parents, and increase in their mean age at marriage, mainly due to decrease in child marriage. There is virtually no increase in divorce rate, cohabitation, or voluntary childlessness, except for some anecdotal evidence from metro cities. The paper shows that the transition to small family in India is not due to cultural shifts towards post-modern attitudes and norms that accept and stress individuality and self-actualization. It is largely due to high aspirations among urban middle-class parents for children which can be fulfilled when they have one or at most two children in view of the rising cost of private English medium education and health care.

Keywords Demographic transition·Aspirational change·Fertility decline·Marriage·Cohabitation·Childlessness

Website of the paper


Stuart Gietel-Basten Demographic and social anxieties: the second demographic transition in Asia

Abstract Asia is now, predominantly, a continent of ‘low’ fertility—one of the features of the Second Demographic Transition. Across the continent, this feature of our population has sprouted concern and anxiety, primarily expressed in macroeconomic terms. Low fertility is directly linked to the twin challenges of population aging and stagnation/decline. We know, however, that maximizing human capital and institutional reform is a much more effective way of responding to these two ‘grand challenges’ in the short- and medium-term. Why, then, is there such a panic about the lack of babies? In this commentary, I argue that much of the concern is grounded in a ‘fear’ of some of the features of the Second Demographic Transition (SDT)—or, at least, a caricatured version of it—taking root in Asian societies. But how concerned should they be? The papers in this special issue clearly demonstrate that the pathway towards ‘full SDT’ has developed in a very uneven way, perhaps so much so that some may argue the SDT is not a viable tool for understanding family change in (much of) Asia. However, this caricature of what the SDT ‘is’ can be unhelpful. There is no doubt that ideals and attitudes are changing (even if many others are not). Therefore, if we rather consider the SDT as a “general narrative that leaves room for many sub-narratives”, the evidence from Asia clearly demonstrates that there are many sub-narratives operating within a general transition towards some of the key societal and familial features of the SDT.

Keywords Asia·Family·Fertility·Second Demographic Transition·Postmodern

Website of the paper