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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:53, January 16, 2007
Reshaping the population problem as a human resources powerhouse
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China's first National Population Development Strategy Research Report, released on January 11, has determined that the introduction of China's family planning policy has prevented the birth of over 400 million people over the last 30 years. The world's population will now reach 6 billion four years later than predicted. In the next 30 years, China is expected to witness a net population increase of about 200 million people, its population peaking at 1.5 billion after 2033.

The report was compiled by the National Population Development Strategy Research Group led by Jiang Zhenghua, Xu Kuangdi and Song Jian, and includes more than 300 experts and scholars. The group spent two years, from February 2004 to April 2006, researching data for the report.

China has now made a feature of having a low birthrate, a low mortality rate and high growth rate. How China can transform itself from a country with a large population to a human resources power is now a tough but pertinent question.

Sustained growth

  • Peaking at 1.5 billion in 2033

  • Long-term labor structural shortage persists

    Data: In the next 30 years, China's population will increase by a net 200 million people. Experts point out that in the mid-to-late 1990s the fertility rate dropped to 1.8 percent and remained stable. Statisticians predict China's population will reach 1.36 billion in 2010 and 1.45 billion in 2020, peaking at 1.5 billion around the year 2033. In 2000, the size of the working population - the number of people aged 15 to 64 - was 860 million. It is expected to peak at 1.01 billion in 2016, far more even the total working population in all developed countries combined.

    Outlook: China will not suffer for lack of labor in the long term. However, there will be quality and skill gaps in its labor force, causing long-term structural shortages.

    Manpower quality worrisome

  • Four to six percent of newborns have congenital disabilities

  • Physical, scientific and cultural quality must be improved

    Data: Between 200,000 and 300,000 infants are born every year with obvious congenital defects. The number of disabled children born every year is between 800,000 and 1,200,000, or 4 to 6 percent of all births. In recent years the number has actually grown, with the overall number of people suffering from some form of physical or mental disability increasing across all age groups. The number of mentally disabled people has reached 5.44 million. HIV and other viruses are spreading. In 2000, Chinese people aged above 15 had received just 7.85 years of education on average. Out of every one million people, only 545 are engaged in study and research. The proportion of the rural working-age population who has only received a primary education or even less was as high as 47.6 percent.

    Outlook: One of China's outstanding problems is that current training programs focus too much on education rather than labor skill development. Some people have lost their faith and ideals. Immoral behavior is becoming more common. Many people lack a sense of social responsibility. The physical, scientific, cultural and moral qualities of Chinese people have become one of the primary factors impacting the country's competitiveness and industrialization.

    Accelerated aging population

  • Aging population growing

  • One elderly person for every three to four persons

  • Aged population larger in rural areas

    Data: China has the largest elderly population in the world. At present, there are approximately 143 million people aged over 60 in China, 11 percent of the country's total population. By 2020, the size of the population aged over 60 will be 234 million, increasing from 9.9 percent of the total population in 2000 to 16 percent; the number of people aged over 65 will be 164 million, going from 6.7 percent of the population in 2000 to 11.2 percent. It is estimated that China's aged population will peak in the late 2040s, at which time there will be one elderly person for every three to four people. In 2020 and 2050 the number of people aged over 80 will be 22 million and 83 million respectively.

    Outlook: The aging population will increase pressure on social security and public services, as well as impact social harmony in terms of inter-generational relations. China faces a grim situation with an imperfect rural pension system and the mass migration of young people to cities.

    Imbalanced gender ratio

  • 20 to 45-year-old males outnumbering females by 30 million

  • Imbalanced gender ratio highlights marriage problem

    Data: A sample survey in 2005 of 1 percent of the population shows that for every 100 baby girls, 118.58 baby boys were born. The gender ratio in both urban and rural areas is unusual and the imbalance is particularly serious in rural areas. By 2020, males aged 20 to 45 will outnumber women in their age group by approximately 30 million.

    Since 2005, women entering child-bearing age have been far outnumbered by males. This has created marriage difficulties. Men earning a low income have found it particularly difficult to find ideal spouses. It is a serious hidden danger which may lead to social disorder.

    Birthrate rebounding

  • Small peak between 2005 and 2020

  • Low birthrate remains unstable

    Data: The high number of women entering child-bearing age between 2005 and 2020 will lead to a small birth spike. In addition, the nearly 100 million only children that have been born since China introduced its One Child Policy are now at a reproductive age. These factors will increase the birthrate and the population of China.

    Outlook: China's current low birthrate is unstable. There is a large gap between the number of children people want and the existing policy. In the majority of the regions, the population growth is showing potential for a rebound. Due to the transformation of government functions, rapid social changes and increased population mobilization, the original administrative methods are weaker and in some regions people do not take seriously the complexity and difficulty of the long-term family planning policy. The population comprehensive management system is not yet perfect. Errors and adverse effects in the external environment may lead to a rebound of the birthrate.

    Population development strategy

  • Controlling total population and improving its quality

  • "Three-step�� population strategy

    In its report, the National Population Development Strategy Research Group made clear the strategic goals of national population development:

    - By 2010, to markedly improve population quality; guarantee that people enjoy basic medical services; popularize the nine-year compulsory education policy; lower the poverty rate; check the rising gender imbalance; alleviate the widening gap between rural and urban regions; improve living conditions.

    - By 2020, to significantly improve the quality of the population; ensure better health care; reduce the size of the impoverished population; normalize the sex ratio at birth; close the widening gap between rural and urban regions; significantly improve people's living conditions. .

    - By 2050, put an end to the population growth peak and slowly reduce the population growth rate; ensure the per capita income of the Chinese people is equal to that of moderately developed countries; improve the quality and health of the Chinese population; establish a reasonable population distribution and employment structure; realize common progress and the development of urban and rural areas; create an environmentally friendly and modern living environment; basically realize national modernization.


    China's three birth rate spikes: China's first birth spike occurred between 1956 and 1958, during which time China created the conditions necessary to accelerate population growth. The second birth spike was between 1962 and 1976, which was the result of compensatory reproduction after a natural disaster and child-bearing age shifts. The third birth spike was from 1985 to1991, as a result of an age passage effect triggered by the first two spikes in the birth.

    By People's Daily Online

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