CPC congress signals long-term, balanced population development

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A keynote report to the ongoing 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has signaled changes in the country's population policy amid an aging society, according to experts.

"We must adhere to the basic state policy of family planning, improve the health of newborns, steadily improve the population policy and promote long-term and balanced population growth," the report said.

A similar report to the 17th CPC congress five years ago said China would adhere to the basic state policy of family planning, keep the birthrate low and make newborns healthier.

Li Jianmin, a professor with the Institute of Population and Development Research at Nankai University, said the new report does not mention "keep the birthrate low," but instead replaces it with "steadily improve the population policy and promote long-term and balanced population growth."

"This means China not only aims to control the population, but is also eyeing the quality and sustainable development of the population," said Li.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China remains the world's most populous country.

"Family planning is a state policy. Improving the population policy does not necessarily contradict the family planning policy," said Li.

The government issued a population development plan for the 2011-2015 period in April, stating that those years will be a turning point for China's population development, as the quality of the population has slowed national competitiveness.

According to the plan, China will stick to the basic state family planning policy and maintain a low birthrate, as well as improve the population policy and improve the long-term and balanced development of population.

"The report to the 18th Party congress underlines long-term and balanced population development, which is crucial for future economic and social development," said Lou Jiwei, chairman of the China Investment Corporation and a delegate to the 18th CPC national congress.

The Chinese population is aging and labor costs are increasing. Without due measures, China will lose its edge over other countries, Lou said.

A country becomes an aging society when people 60 years of age or older account for 10 percent of the total population, according to UN standards.

China's sixth census, conducted in 2010, showed that children account for 16.6 percent of the population, while people 65 years of age or older account for 8.9 percent.

Professor Cai Fang, director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China is losing its demographic dividends, as aging has accelerated and the dependency ratio, or the number of dependents, children and elderly for every 100 working adults, stopped declining in 2011.

The country needs to prolong demographic dividends by improving the population policy, as well as develop the second round of demographic dividends by improving population quality, Cai said.

Li said China needs to balance the "population pyramid," stating that China should be wary of a constant decrease in the number of children, an upcoming decrease in the number of working-age people and a rapid increase in the elderly population.

Li said any adjustment to the population policy should start with the family planning policy.

Adjustments to the family planning policy will help China confront the challenges posed by an aging population, ensure smooth changes in the total population and boost demographic dividends, Li said.

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