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Baby overload in Guangdong
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One million babies were born in Guangdong in the first nine months of the year, and the total is set to exceed 1.2 million by the end of December, the provincial population and family planning committee said yesterday.

With more than 100 million residents, Guangdong is the country's most populous province, and the latest additions will bring major challenges for authorities, Zhang Feng, director of the committee, said.

"There are several reasons for the increased number of births," Zhang said.

In 2005, Guangdong entered a baby boom, which could last for 10 years, he said.

Also, the floating population has continued to grow, and about 250,000 newborns - 70,000 more than last year - have come from that sector of the community, he said.

A further 30,000 babies were born to couples from only-child families, which since 2002, have been allowed to have two children, he said.

Furthermore, the lighter sentences - fines rather than detainment - being handed down to families that abuse the national family planning policy have also fueled a spike in the number of births, Zhang said.

The desire to have a child in the year of the Beijing Olympics had probably also contributed to the baby boom, he said.

As well as the high number of births, this year has also seen a worrying increase in the incidence of congenital mental disorders, Zhang said.

Of all the infants born in Guangdong this year, between 6 and 7 percent had some form of mental handicap, far above the national average of 4 to 6 percent, he said.

Also, while the ratio of male to female babies born in the province is now 1.15:1 - down from 1.3:1 in 2000 - there is still a massive gender imbalance, Zhang said.

"Unless the government does something about it, by 2020, 4.6 million men will have no choice but to live as bachelors," he said.

Guangdong's population is also rising because people are living longer, Zhang said.

The province's 10 million seniors (aged 65 plus) are putting huge pressure on the public coffers, he said.

Zheng Zhizhen, a demographer with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said: "If population growth is not contained, a lot of social problems will emerge, especially with regard to the social security system."

In a bid to tackle the population boom, Zhang said the Guangdong government has ordered authorities in the province's 21 cities to properly enforce the nation's family planning policies.

(China Daily October 16, 2008)

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