SCIO briefing on 7th National Population Census

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Red Star News:

My question is, what changes have occurred in the fertility rate of women and number of births in China since the comprehensive two-child policy was adopted? Is the current lack of fertility willingness among the population leading to an almost alarming low fertility rate? Will China adjust its population policies, especially family planning policies, based on the findings of the census?

Ning Jizhe:

I will take these questions. People are concerned about fertility issues and we have gained a lot of information in this regard through the census. I must first note that the two-child policy has achieved positive results and the seventh national census has found the following characteristics for new births.

First, the number of new births has been large. New births increased significantly in 2016 and 2017 to over 18 million and 17 million, respectively. This was up by more than two million and one million respectively in comparison with the number before the two-child policy was adopted. Although the number has fallen since 2018, it still reached 12 million in 2020, according to the preliminary findings of the census.

Second, the proportion of second children was high. Among the newborns between 2014 and 2017, the proportion of second children rose markedly from around 30% [M1] in 2013 to around 50% in 2017. Although the proportion has since declined, it has remained above 40%. Adjustments in the fertility policy have increased the number of newborn second children by over 10 million.

Third, the fertility rate has declined. China's total fertility rate was 1.3 in 2020, which was a low level, according to the census. This was largely caused by a continuous fall in the number of women of childbearing age and a gradual wearing-off of the effect of the two-child policy. In 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic, which added uncertainties to life and worries about in-hospital childbearing, further dampened people's willingness to have children. We should come to realize that the low fertility level is also a result of economic and social development. It is not only affected by policy factors but also by economic, social and cultural factors with impact from the latter gradually gaining. In addition, we must be aware that with economic and social development, especially when industrialization and modernization have changed people's views on birth, a low fertility rate is a common problem in most developed countries and will also become a practical issue for China.

The fertility concerns you just mentioned were also raised by the Reuters journalist in his question a moment ago. The fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has clearly asked for improvement in the fertility policy to make it more inclusive. The Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development, which was adopted at the National People's Congress, also made it clear that China will pursue an appropriate fertility rate and lessen family spending on child bearing, raising and education, to further release the potential of the fertility policy. According to a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics, the number of children that women of childbearing age are willing to have is 1.8, so as long as the proper supportive measures are put in place, the real fertility potential will be brought out. Thank you.

Chen Wenjun:

Today's press conference ends here. Thank you to all the speakers and thank you to all of our friends from the media.

Translated and edited by Wang Yiming, Wang Wei, Zhu Bochen, Yang Xi, Duan Yaying, Huang Shan, Guo Yiming, He Shan, Zhang Rui, Fan Junmei, Lin Liyao, Zhang Tingting, Liu Qiang, Liu Jianing, Xu Xiaoxuan, Li Huiru, Yuan Fang, Wang Yanfang, David Ball, Jay Birbeck, and Tom Arnstein. In case of any discrepancy between the English and Chinese texts, the Chinese version is deemed to prevail.

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