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China’s Population Policy Should Be Adjusted
By China Review News Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
August 1, 2012


Source: http://www.chinareviewnews.com 2012-06-30 06:33:59

 

The event of forced induction of labor of 23-year-old Feng Jianmei in Shaanxi Province by the local government is destined to become a scar in the history of China's family planning. As domestic and international media exposed this matter, the departments of the Chinese government also began to take a position. China's National Population and Family Planning Committee said in a statement that "Family planning work relates to the vital interests of the masses.  Slightest mistakes in the work will lead to adverse effects and damage to the image of the party and the country ... (We must) from the source prevent the occurrence of brutal law enforcement and administrative infringement. "

 

The Caijing website (caijing.com.cn) has published an article (http://wap.caijing.com.cn/dlog4wap/wml/cjArticle/show.vm?log_id=111918562&column=5&s_c=18) written by senior research fellow Jun He of the Anbound Consulting Firm, in which he expressed that this event, in addition to exposing the simple and crude manners of some of the grass-roots officials, also sounded the alarm on China's family planning policy: in the new situation, should China adjust its family planning policy? After implementation for over 30 years, the family planning policy has been one of the long-term national policies of China. The State Family Planning Commission still says that China will adhere to the goal of family planning policy, but just needs to adjust the methods of work. But China's population problems and population policy are clearly not so simple. Now the frequently-occurring problems indicate that China should consider the adjustment of its population policy with seriousness and a scientific approach that it never had before.

 

First of all, liberalization of the fertility policy will not lead to rapid population growth. The implementation of family planning policy over 30 years has played an important role. It has inhibited the population reproduction that was out of control under the backward planned economy and agricultural society. However, the family planning policy is not a permanent policy. After more than 30 years of implementation, great changes have occurred in China's economic society; in particular, there has been tremendous progress in urbanization.  Under the new situation, the family planning policy must also go with the times.

 

People who are against policy adjustments worry that the release of the family planning policy will once again make fertility in China surge again. However, this seemingly compelling reason may not be valid in the new situation. Expert studies show that China needs a fertility rate of 2.3 or so in order to maintain a generation-to-generation population replacement. China since the 1980s has tried a "second child" program in rural pilot areas like Yicheng in Shanxi, Jiuquan in Gansu, Chengde in Hebei and Enshi in Hubei, etc. on more than 8.4 million people. But in 2000, the Yicheng fertility rate was only 1.5, in Jiuquan it was only 1.4; in 2005, in Enshi only 1.47, and in Changde only 1.6. None of the above-mentioned “second child” pilot areas had a stabilized fertility rate at 2.0. Some professionals estimate that even if the family planning is stopped, China's fertility rate can only be about 1.7 at present situation. This means that liberalization of the family planning policy will not cause the population growth to rebound.

 

Second, the existing family planning policy will result in a serious shortage of young workers in China in the future. According to census data, following the existing population policy the 2019 college-age population (19-22 years old) will only be 53% of that in 2009, which means that a large number of colleges and universities will face bankruptcy due to student shortage, and the young labor force will correspondingly be reduced substantially. There are already indications that the "demographic dividend" relied by China’s 30-year reform and opening up has begun to subside; the problems of population and labor force reproductions have begun to show up and will become overwhelming. The population policy is an ultra-long-term policy. If it cannot be adjusted ahead of time, its consequences will be very long-lasting.

 

Third, severe aging will impact China. When it comes to China’s aging, it is often said that the country will "get old before getting rich." These are not empty words. China's GDP per capita in 2010 was less than US$5,000, but the population aged 60 and over accounted for 13.26 percent; the State Council expects that in 2015 this proportion will rise to 16 percent, growing from 178 million in 2010 to 221 million. Studies have estimated that after 2030, the Chinese aged over 60 will reach 400 million! “Getting old before getting rich” is not entirely the problem of aging. An aging China will relate to multiple aspects of population reproduction, labor issues, food issues, pension issues, aging industry, government services, etc. It will comprehensively and profoundly impact the future of China. According to Anbound’s simple estimate, the problem of China’s aging will grow increasingly serious and likely continue into the years 2040-2050.

 

The article pointed out that to deal with all these problems, we must start from the adjustment of the family planning policy. China can no longer view the population problem from a family planning point of view; instead, it should take the long-term population strategy point of view. China should rename "China's National Population and Family Planning Commission” as "China's National Population Commission” and make major adjustments in key tasks.

 

China's family planning policy has been politicized. But to study the strategic issues of the population requires scientific and objective attitudes. Facing the avalanche of aging, China urgently needs to adjust from a strategic perspective the population policy to rebuild its population plan.

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