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China’s millennial consumers are a well-documented economic force, but its DINKs – dual-income, no kids – are under-appreciated. ‘Empty-nest’ households account for over one-fifth of urban Chinese households, making them an influential consumer market.

Without children, or when children leave home, and having amassed property and key items, their higher discretionary income means they spend more on health and wellness, better foods, higher quality travel, clothing and jewellery. Some 47 million Chinese live in households with annual incomes exceeding USD50,000 and DINKs are increasingly brand-conscious.

A study of Asia’s demographic trends also shows the mistake in viewing urbanisation simply as large numbers flocking to megacities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Delhi, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Manila, and Jakarta. Only 12 per cent of Asians live in megacities while 41 per cent live in centres with populations below 300,000.

Most urbanisation is thus in mid-tier cities and Asia’s average urbanisation ratio is 48 per cent, according to the United Nations, compared with 73 per cent in Europe and 82 per cent in North America. India’s rate is just 36 per cent, but by 2025 it could have 69 cities with populations above 1 million.

Poor education affects urbanisation if rural residents lack the skills needed for city jobs. That impedes labour-productivity growth.

Some 38 per cent of Indian students do not complete primary schooling, so struggle to read or write and often know only local languages, not the English or Hindi spoken in big cities. By contrast, Vietnam has high levels of education while Singapore and Hong Kong score substantially better than many other developed countries.

More women at work boosts growth and output but female labour participation has fallen sharply in India while rising elsewhere in Asia. In north Asia, well-educated women aged 40-plus are entering the labour force, often for the first time. In South Korea, 24 per cent of women over 65 still work.

Asia’s ageing trend has fed fears of grave social and economic consequences as governments face rapidly rising healthcare costs. However, the benefits are often overlooked. By 40 or 50, many people have earned and saved money and bought a house or car; they can then upgrade their spending or prepare for retirement.

And because older people need wealth to fund their old age, an ageing population can raise the ratio of capital to labour, making labour more productive and driving economic growth. The USD15 trillion of pension assets accumulated by Asians in 2010 could reach USD108 trillion by 2050.

But there are wide demographic differences across Asia. India, with a median age of 27 is a very young country with 241 million youths aged 15 to 24; Japan has twice as many over-65s as under-15s and a median age above 46 with Korea and Taiwan catching up quickly.

Lower fertility rates in urban areas help explain the rise in DINKs, shrinking households and falling dependency ratios. This ratio of earners per household also reflects fewer elderly parents needing to live with their adult children.

High education costs partly explain birth rates in north Asia of just 1.5 – well below the 2.1 rate for maintaining a population. Asians marry later – or never. In Taiwan, 42.5 per cent of women aged 30 to 34 are unmarried; 37.4 per cent in Hong Kong and 34.6 per cent in Japan. India’s figure is just 4 per cent.

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