Editor’s Note: China has achieved unprecedented economic achievements over the past decades thanks to the demographic dividends it has enjoyed. But the declining fertility rate threatens to rob the country of those demographic dividends, so it has relaxed family planning policy further to prevent it from happening, writes a senior China Daily reporter in the second in a series of comments.
The strict family planning policy that China has followed for more than three decades has slowed down rapid population growth and has contributed not only to the country’s economic development, but also to improving livelihoods and living standards. Population.
When the strict family planning policy was introduced in 1980, China’s population had already reached 1 billion, increasing at a rate of 100 million every five years. If the trend had not been reversed, a population explosion would have been inevitable, rendering reforms and opening up ineffective.
It was against this background that China adopted the strict family planning policy that allowed couples in urban areas to have one child, and rural and ethnic minority groups to have two or three children. It took decades for the policy to bear fruit.
That the seventh national census released in May showed that at the end of last year the Chinese population stood at 1.41 billion, it means that since the introduction of the strict family planning policy, the Chinese population has increased by 100 million every 10 years, compared to every five years before 1980. It also means that if China had not implemented the strict family planning policy, its population today could have been 1, 81 billion.
While the census results show that the Chinese population has not shrunk as many had speculated and will remain above 1.4 billion for some time, changes in the demographic makeup have attracted the attention of government and experts.
The decline in the fertility rate, the rapid increase in the aging of the population and the shortage of people of working age call for a reform of the family planning policy. For two decades, China’s total fertility rate has been below 2.0, below 2.1, the globally accepted level at which a population replaces itself from one generation to the next. To make matters worse, surveys show that the average number of children Chinese women of reproductive age would like to have is 1.8. And according to a UN report, China’s population will decline by 31.4 million between 2019 and 2050.
Over the past decades, the working-age population on the Chinese mainland has shrunk by 40 million. Many companies in the coastal region, which once attracted large numbers of migrant workers, are now trying to attract workers by offering them higher wages and other benefits that were previously unthinkable.
As the working-age population shrinks, people aged 60 and over already make up 18.7 percent of China’s total population, up 5.44 percentage points over the past decade. That is why long before the publication of the last census, the government began to relax family planning policy with the aim of maintaining a healthy population growth rate.
In 2002, couples in urban areas were allowed to have two children if they were both the only child of their respective parents. In 2013, couples were allowed to have two children if one parent was the only child in their family. But the easing of policy has not resulted in the expected baby boom. Thus, in 2015, the government announced that each married couple can have two children since the beginning of 2016.
But the response from couples of childbearing age has been lukewarm. The latest census shows that over the past decade, 72.06 million people have been added to the population, an increase of 5.38%, or an average annual growth rate of 0.53%, lower than 0.57% of the previous decade.
Thus, a few days after the publication of the seventh national census, the central authorities announced that each couple can have three children. The National People’s Congress, China’s highest legislative body, responded by amending the family planning law to encourage all couples of childbearing age to have three children.
And some local governments, especially those that have seen a decline in the local population, have offered preferential support policies for couples who wanted to have three children, including grants, longer maternity leave, and more support for the family. education of their children.
Hopefully the relaxation of the family planning policy will be as effective and successful as the one-child policy.
The author is the former deputy editor of China Daily.