Crisis looms as China's population growth slows

08:59, April 29, 2011      

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Ma Jiantang (C), director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), receives questions at a press conference in Beijing, capital of China, April 28, 2011. China's population has increased to 1.37 billion, including 1.3397 billion on the mainland, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Thursday. The new population figure for the Chinese mainland was 73.9 million more than that of 2000, when China conducted its fifth national census, according to data from the sixth census released by the NBS. The census data shows an annual average population growth of 0.57 percent over the past decade (2000-2010) on the Chinese mainland, slower than the growth rate of 1.07 percent from 1990 to 2000. Photo:Xinhua

China's family-planning policy has been effective in curbing its population growth, but problems such as an aging population and gender ratio imbalance are reaching an alarming stage, threatening the development of the world's No. 2 economy.

According to census data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Thursday, the country's population reached 1.37 billion in 2010, including 1.3397 billion on the mainland.

The figure marked a 73.9 million increase over ten years ago, but the annual average population growth over the past decade dropped to 0.57 percent from 1.07 percent between 1990 and 2000.

"The rate indicated the rapid growth of our population has been controlled effectively thanks to the family-planning policy that started in 1980," Ma Jiantang, director of the NBS, said at a press conference, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

However, he placed greater emphasis on three major challenges that were shown from the census data – the upward aging population trend, an expanding floating population and the skewed gender ratio among newborns.

According to the NBS, Chinese people above the age of 60 account for 13.26 percent of the population, 2.93 percentage points higher than the figure collected ten years ago. Meanwhile, the number of people aged under 14 slipped to 16.60 percent, down by 6.29 percentage points.

"The emerging problem of aging is affecting the nation, especially places along the eastern coast. Recent cases of labor shortages in some coastal areas are the result of this problem," Ma said.

A survey by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security a year ago showed that 70 percent of the 3,239 companies polled nationwide said they had difficulty recruiting employees, up by 5 percentage points over 2009.

"The shortage will likely continue, and without a sufficient workforce, economic growth will slow down, and eventually the total production output will be curtailed," said Wu Yaowu, a senior researcher specializing in population economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The current family-planning policy will worsen the aging problem, and the government needs to come up with adjustment measures, Wu told the Global Times.

According to Time magazine, the average number of children a Chinese woman will have in her lifetime – the fertility rate – is currently around 1.6, well below the replacement level of 2.1 that is needed to hold a population steady.

"What really matters is that the family-planning policy has created a cliff drop (in the population) in the last three decades," Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, told Reuters. "That is starting to show in rural labor markets, and the entire economy feels the pain as this becomes a major source of inflation."

However, some analysts noted that maintaining the one-child policy is also important for China's development.

Ma Li, deputy head of the China Population and Development Research Institute, told the Global Times that the policy could help the country deal with a shortage in resources and environmental pollution.

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Source: Global Times
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