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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Rural two-child policy gives birth to new possibilities (4)

By  Duan Yan and Shan Juan  (China Daily)

08:33, December 08, 2011

New challenges

Fertility in the special zones has decreased as economic development and urbanization have increased. The national average is less than 1.5 children over a woman's lifetime, which is well below the replacement level of 2.1, said Lu Jiehua, a sociology professor at Peking University. In Yicheng, the rate stands at 2.0 children.

China's total fertility rate "is the lowest among the developing world and even among the lowest in industrial countries," Lu said. "To increase human productivity is even more difficult than curbing it."

The government credits family planning with averting 400 million births, said Li Bin, minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. Less pressure on food and other critical resources allowed China to achieve its economic wonder of the past 30 years and largely improve people's quality of life, she said.

Li did concede, however, that the success of family planning also led to surging demographic challenges - a serious and rapid increase in the aged as a proportion of population, a skewed sex ratio at birth and a dwindling labor force.

Gu, the Renmin University demographer, once said that for the first half of his life he worked to curb population growth and for the rest he would strive for relaxation of the family planning policy. He would like to see two children be allowed nationwide to help address the problems that Li cited.

But decision-makers have yet to reach consensus on easing the family planning policy and are highly cautious about a change, said Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University's population and development institute in Tianjin.

Research based on the 2010 census put the total fertility rate at nearly 1.5 but some academics doubt that figure's credibility. They say many children born in contravention of the family planning policy might not be counted and a fertility rate of around 1.8 was more trustworthy, Lu said. "Thereafter, the agenda to ease the policy has been put off," he said.

Personally, Lu agreed with 1.5 as the rate.

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