Family planning policy to stay firm: President

08:21, April 28, 2011      

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China will maintain its stringent family planning policy it imposed a generation ago to keep the birth rate low and the economy growing, President Hu Jintao said in remarks before the release of a national census data.

China has the world's largest population and credits its family planning policy introduced in 1980 with preventing 400 million additional births.

The population is now more than 1.3 billion. Data on the first census in 10 years will be made public on Thursday.

Hu told top state leaders at a group study of the Political Bureau of the ruling Party's Central Committee Tuesday that the policy - which limits most urban couples to one child and rural families to two - should be maintained and improved. But no birth rate target or other specific details were given.

Hu said China is a big developing country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, which is a fundamental reality that should be kept in mind when making decisions and taking actions.

There has been growing speculation among Chinese media, experts and the public about whether the government would relax the family planning policy, allowing more people to have two children.

The family planning policy has curbed China's population growth but brought new problems, such as a rising elderly population that demographers say will be increasingly hard to support as the young labor force shrinks.

Hu said that social security and services for the elderly should be improved and he called on officials to formulate effective strategies to cope with the aging population.

The president also called for efforts in building China into a country strong in human resources.

The one-child policy is blamed by some for the country's unbalanced sex ratio. Some rural families with a strong preference for boys sometimes resort to aborting female fetuses. Demographers worry the imbalance will make it hard for men to find spouses.

The male-female ratio at birth in China is about 118 males to 100 females. In industrialized countries, the ratio is 107 to 100.

Problems concerning the sex ratio should be addressed, and gender equity efforts enhanced, Hu said.

Government statistics showed China recorded 12.13 births per thousand people in 2009, comparable to birth rates in Britain and Australia. But, it is above the very low birth rates of around 7-8 per thousand found in countries such as Japan and Italy.

However, it is well below the 23 births per thousand that the United Nations reports for India, which is expected to overtake China as the world's most populous nation by 2025.

As to whether to readjust and revise China's strict family-planning population policy, officials and scholars are taking starkly different positions. The proponents of the policy say that it is unsustainable for China to provide adequate food and other resources to support 1.5 billion or more people in the country. The opponents say, if the depleting work force is not replenished, China will have difficulty to compete with countries like India.
People's Daily Online /Shanghai Daily
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