At long last, it appears as if the Chinese have finally hit the low growth curve, at least as far as four legged creatures are concerned. The Giant Panda, long held to be the most lovable and harmless symbol of the increasingly belligerent Chinese, is heading towards a seemingly irreversible path of extinction, helped in no small measure by the complete lack of interest shown in the mating regimen by the few members of the community still left in the open. According to some fairly unreliable sources, the furrier and much cuter relatives of the Average Joe bear have seemingly given up on their amorous desires in the wake of ever shrinking open spaces that has left them with little room, quite literally, to indulge in their favorite dating game of ‘Dance Panda Dance’, usually involving highly elaborate dancing rituals (what else..), more commonly found in Yash Chopra blockbusters (how they got the DVDs remains a mystery). In the words of one distraught panda, speaking post a particularly messy break-up, “I just need more space at this point in my life”.
More worryingly for the Chinese, however, lack of interest in time honored traditions of procreation seems to be catching on with more than just creatures with fur on their backs. Latest trends in Chinese demographics suggest that a rapidly ageing workforce is all set to put a big question mark on its hitherto unchallenged status as the manufacturing hub of the world. The one-child policy, vigorously pursued by the Chinese govt for the last three decades, is all set to come back and bite them where it hurts the most, namely, their economy in general, and the manufacturing sector in particular. With a shrinking labor force that is all set to decline further in the years ahead, wage-costs have been on an upward spiral, prompting many global manufacturers to seriously consider other viable options for setting up of their global operations. An increasing number of strikes across the mainland over the past one year, notable among them the walkouts staged at the Honda Motors and Toyota plants in demand of better wages, has underlined the rising mismatch between demand and supply of trained workers in the Chinese labor market .It has already forced the govt to come out with several unusually generous measures in favour of the workers-two years back, it strengthened its labor laws, making it more difficult for employers to lay off ageing staff without paying significant compensation based on years of service, effectively making employers financially responsible for part of the nation’s pension payment requirements Such moves coming in a country not exactly known for being overly concerned with people’s rights should give us some idea of the severity of the labour shortage that could follow in the years ahead. Against such a background, it was but inevitable for every manufacturer worth its name to start looking at the next best-sorry, the next cheapest alternative sitting right across the Himalayas. Though India was the pioneer in the arena of state sponsored family planning programs, having launched one as far back as 1952, our spectacular inefficiency in actually implementing any of its features has ensured that we will continue to have a youngish workforce for several decades to come. Thus, with more and more people to work on the factory floors and a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure that will require billions of dollars of investment in the years ahead, it seems we have finally managed to discover the magic formula of how to make gross incompetence reap rich dividends- the great Indian Dream finally seems within grasp.