ROILO GOLEZ, Philippine National Security Adviser (2001-2004). The world and the Philippines as Roilo Golez sees it. With focus on national security, geopolitics, geo-security, economics, science and government.
Friday, December 26, 2014
China population: Pressure on China to Further Reduce Birth Restrictions
Pressure on China to Further Reduce Birth Restrictions
As the year comes to a close, population experts are urging China’s leaders to further slash the country’s birth restrictions, warning that changes to its notorious one-child policy aren’t stimulating enough births to solve an oncoming labor shortage.
An informal group of around 50 Chinese demographers met earlier this month in Shanghai to brainstorm policy recommendations for China’s population planners. They said the country needs to give more couples the option to have two children (in Chinese) and warned that leaders were failing to act fast enough to steer China from a demographic crisis.
China’s government implemented new rules this year easing China’s one-child policy, allowing couples to have two children if one spouse is an only child. Couples widely applauded the move, but not as many as expected have taken advantage of the new relaxed rules.
Only 804,000 couples applied by the end of September to have a second child, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a statement in November to The Wall Street Journal, falling far short of the two million births officials and demographers expected when the government said it would overhaul the policy the year before.
The commission said in its statement last month that it is closely monitoring population changes and that it expects more couples will apply to have a second child in the future.
Many demographers in China and elsewhere say the country should consider scrapping birth restrictions entirely. Wary of birth spikes, health officials have said previously they will instead make gradual moves.
The next step would be to allow all couples to have a second child, said Lu Yang, an associate researcher from the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in a recent interview with the Journal. Demographers don’t expect that to happen for another two years, after the results of a 2015 census are published, Ms. Lu said.
Couples’ lackluster response to the new policy has shocked demographers, said Wang Feng, a demographer and professor at the University of California at Irvine who took part in this month’s symposium in Shanghai.
An estimated 11 million Chinese couples are eligible to have additional children under the new rules, but fewer than 7% have opted for a new baby, Mr. Wang said.
Tacking on a new tot would be too pricey, many couples say. They also say they are already burdened with caring for their parents and can’t manage another addition to the family.
Yet without action, a shrinking labor force and weakening economic prospects are looming, said Ms. Lu. China’s fertility rate, which has dropped to as low as 1.4 children per woman, means that couples aren’t giving birth to enough babies to replenish the supply of future workers, Ms. Lu said, adding that the rate is “dangerously low.” The fertility rate was 1.7 in 2010, according to the World Bank. “If it drops lower, it will be difficult to reverse,” said Ms. Lu.
China’s working-age population—those between the ages of 16 and 59—is already shrinking. It dropped to 920 million in 2013, down 2.4 million from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
It is expected to shrink more. The United Nations projects that from 2010 to 2030, China’s labor force will lose 67 million workers—more than the entire population of France. Over that period, the elderly population is projected to soar, from 110 million in 2010 to 210 million in 2030, and by 2050 will account for a quarter of the population, according to U.N. data.
–Laurie Burkitt, with contributions from Josh Chin. Follow Laurie on Twitter @lburkitt