II. A Social Undertaking That
Benefits the People
China's reform and opening to the outside world as well as its economic development have created a favourable socioeconomic environment for family planning, while the achievements of family planning have in turn created a favourable population environment for the continuous development of the economy, the improvement of the people's living standards as well as the overall progress of society.
1. Family planning has effectively checked the trend of over-rapid population growth.
In the 15 years from the founding of the People's Republic to 1964, China's population increased from 500 million to 700 million, and on average 7.5 years were needed for the population to increase by 100 million. The 1964-74 period was one of high-speed growth where China's population increased from 700 million to 900 million in ten years, and the time needed for the population to increase by 100 million was shortened to five years. In 1973, China began to promote family planning throughout the country. China's population increased from 900 million to 1.2 billion in the period from 1973 to February 1995, and the time needed for the population to increase by 100 million was again lengthened to around seven years. China has been through the third post-1949 peak period of births from the beginning of the 1990s, the community of women in their prime of fertility (aged 20 to 29) has exceeded 100 million each year on average, and such a huge child-bearing community has a great birth potential still. But, because China's current population and family planning programmes and policies have won understanding and support from the people, the fertility level of the population has steadily reduced and the trend of overrapid population growth has been effectively checked along with the country's economic and social development. Compared with 1970, in 1994 the birth rate dropped from 33.43 per thousand to 17.7 per thousand; the natural growth rate, from 25.83 per thousand to 11.21 per thousand; and the total fertility rate of women, from 5.81 to around 2. Now, China's urban population has basically accomplished the change-over to the population reproduction pattern characterized by low birth rate, low death rate and low growth; and the rural population is currently in this process of change-over. According to statistics supplied by the United Nations, China's population growth rate has already been markedly lower than the average level of other developing countries. According to calculation by experts, if China had not implemented family planning but had all along kept the birth rate at the level of the early 1970s, its population would possibly have passed the 1.5 billion mark by now. Over the past two decades and more, China's promotion of family planning has created a population environment conducive to reform and opening to the outside world and socioeconomic development as well as the population conditions for safeguarding the survival and development of China.
2. Family planning has promoted the change of people's concepts regarding marriage, birth and family.
Since the implementation of the policy of family planning in China, profound changes have been taking place in people's concepts of marriage, birth and family along with the reform and opening to the outside world as well as socio-economic development; the traditional ideas of "early marriage and early births," "more children, greater happiness," and "looking up on men and down on women" are being discarded by more and more people at the child-bearing ages. Late marriage and late births, fewer and healthier births, viewing male and female children as the same, establishing happy, perfect and harmonious small families and seeking a modern, scientific and civilized way of life have become an irresistible trend of the times. The rate of early marriage for women has come down and their average age at first marriage has gone up. In 1992, the proportion of women entering first marriage before the age of 20 dropped to 12.9 percent of the total number of firstmarriage women. In 1970, women's average age at first marriage was 20.2 years, while in 1993 it was 22.67 years, up 2.47 years. The family size has become gradually smaller and nucleus family is becoming the major form of modern Chinese families. According to China's fourth national census, the average size of families in 1990 was 3.96 persons, 0.88 person less than the 4.84 persons in 1971. The major reason for the reduction of family size is a reduction in the number of births. Compared with 1970, of the babies born in 1993 the first-birth rate and second-birth rate increased from 20.7 percent and 17.1 percent to 61.3 percent and 27.5 percent respectively, and the multiple-birth rate dropped from 62.2 percent to 11.2 percent. By 1994, a total of 46.76 million couples had volunteered to give birth to only one child throughout the country, accounting for 20.3 percent of the total married women at child-bearing age. At the current level of economic development and living standards in China, the reduction of family size and fewer children to support have obviously reduced the economic burden and the burden of family chores on the families and improved their quality of life.
3. Family planning has created favourable conditions for the development of China's economy and the improvement of people's living standards.
In vigorously promoting family planning, China strives to make the speed of population growth much lower than the speed of growth in the gross national product, thus gradually raising the per-capita level. A part from the reform and opening to the outside world, family planning has been a factor for the sustained economic development of China and the steady improvement of its people's living standards over the past ten years and more. From 1952 to 1978, China's gross domestic product (GDP) increased 4.7-fold. The per-capita GDP, however, increased by only 2.8-fold. From 1978 to 1994, while upholding reform and opening to the outside world and making great efforts to develop the economy, China persisted in doing a good job in family planning. In this period, the GDP went up 4.2-fold and the per-capita GDP increased 3.4-fold. During the same period, thanks to improvements in the quality of people's lives and the rise in their purchasing power, China's consumer goods market expanded 13.7-fold, and the total retail sales volume of consumer goods increased by an annual average of 17.2 percent. In 1994, the total volume of retail sales of consumer goods in China was 1,605.3 billion yuan. China has become a market with the greatest potential in the world. Compared with 1978, living standards have markedly improved, the urban people's per-capita incomes for living expenses increased 10-fold, at an annual increase of 15.5 percent; the per-capita net incomes for rural families went up 9-fold, at an annual increase of 14.8 percent. In Chinese cities and towns, the per-capita housing increased from 3.6 square metres to 7.5 square metres, and in the rural areas it increased from 8.1 square metres to 20.8 square metres. For the overwhelming majority of families, the basic needs of living, such as food, clothing, daily-use articles and housing, were met. The possession rate of durable goods, such as TV sets, cassette tape recorders, refrigerators and washing machines, approached the level of the moderately developed countries.
4. Family planning has promoted the improvement of the quality of the Chinese population in terms of education and health as well as the overall development of the people.
China's family planning has always included the two aspects of controlling the population size and improving the population quality in terms of education and health. While making efforts to control the population at an appropriate size, the Chinese government has devoted great attention to developing educational, medical and other services in order continuously to improve the quality of the population in terms of education and health. Prior to 1949, the mortality rate was as high as 20 per thousand, while by the end of the 1970s it had dropped to below 7 per thousand. From 1949 to 1990, the life expectancy rose from 35 years to 68.55 years--66.84 years for males and 70.47 years for females, making China a country where the life expectancy increased the most rapidly. Great improvements have been witnessed in the basic facilities for public health in China. Throughout the country, the average number of hospital beds for every 10,000 people increased from 13.3 in 1970 to 23.6 in 1994, and the average number of professional medical workers and technical workers in the field of medicine for every 10,000 people went up from 17.5 in 1970 to 35 in 1994. The incidence of various contagious diseases has markedly dropped. The diet of urban and rural people throughout the country has greatly improved, the per-capita daily calorie intake has reached 2,600 Kcal. and that of protein has reached 75 grammes, having reached or approaching the world average levels. Health care for women and children has continuously expanded. Now, family planning as well as maternity and child care networks have been basically formed in China's urban and rural areas. The mortality rate for babies dropped from 200 per thousand prior to the founding of the People's Republic to 35 per thousand in 1990, the death rate of expectant and new mothers was 94.7 per 100,000, and the rate of planned immunity for new-born babies reached 85 percent. The major indexes of people's medical care and health have already far outstripped countries at the same level of economic development, and the gap with the developed countries is being gradually narrowed.
The Chinese government has taken education as a strategic key for the country's development, and great progress has been made in this field. China is now accomplishing the goal of nine-year compulsory education in a planned and systematic way. In 1994, the enrolment at schools, at various levels and of various kinds throughout the country, already reached 270 million, the schooling rate of school-age children reached 98.4 percent, the illiteracy rate of young and middle-aged people dropped to 7 percent, primary education was made universal in areas with 91 percent of the country's population, the major cities and some of the developed regions basically popularized junior middle school education, and infant education as well as the special education for handicapped children developed steadily. Secondary vocational and technical education developed quickly, and enrolment has reached 8.446 million, accounting for 56 percent of the total number of students at the level of senior middle school. Countrywide, over 200 million farmers have received various kinds of education in general knowledge and practical skills.
5. Family planning has further liberated the female productive forces and helped improve the status of women.
Family planning in China has extricated women from frequent births after marriage and the heavy family burden, further liberated and expanded the social productive forces latent in women, and provided them with more opportunities to learn science and general knowledge and take part in economic and social development activities, hence greatly promoted the improvement of the Chinese women's status in economic and social affairs as well as in their families.
The employment rate of women has steadily increased and sphere of employment has continuously expanded. By the end of 1992, the number of female staff and workers had reached 56 million in China, accounting for 38 percent of the national total of staff and workers and representing a 24.1 percent increase over the 45 million in 1985. In the 1979-88 period, the growth rate of employment for urban women had always been higher than that for men, with the average annual increase standing at 4.9 percent, 1.27 percentage point higher than the average annual increase of all staff and workers countrywide. The overwhelming majority of Chinese women are located in the countryside, and they are the major force of the agricultural production and diversified economy in the country. They are that part of the population to benefit most from the policy of family planning. In 1989, a move of "double learnings" (of general knowledge and techniques) and "double competitions" (in achievements and contributions) was launched in China's rural areas, appealing to 120 million rural women. Of this total, more than 90 million received training in practical techniques, over 15,000 were cited as model women workers at and above the provincial level, more than 510,000 were given the title of farmer technician, and 1.067 million scientific and technological demonstration households, with women as the major body, came to the fore. In China's rural areas, some 40 million women are employed in township enterprises, accounting for 47 percent of the total work force in these enterprises.
Family planning has provided women with more opportunities to receive education and is conducive to raising their educational qualities. At present, the average schooling for adult women in China's urban areas totals 9.97 years. Of these women, those who have received education of senior middle school or higher account for 56.3 percent; those who have received junior middle school education account for 33.3 percent; those who have received primary school education account for 8.3 percent; and those who are illiterate and semi-illiterate account for only 2.1 percent. For the previous generation, however, those with senior middle school education and higher account for only 9.1 percent; those with junior middle school education, 11.1 percent; those with primary school education, 24.5 percent; and illiterates and semi-illiterates, 55.3 percent. For adult women in the rural areas, those with senior middle school education or higher make up 8.9 percent; those with junior middle school education, 26.6 percent; those with primary school education, 27.9 percent; and illiterates and semi-illiterates, 36.6 percent. For the previous generation, those with senior middle school education or higher account for only 0.5 percent; those with junior middle school education, 1.9 percent; those with primary school education, 9.0 percent; and illiterates and semi-illiterates, 88.6 percent.
6. Family planning has accelerated the process of eradicating poverty in rural China.
In China's poor areas, economic and cultural backwardness and too many births often interact as both cause and effect. The Chinese government has taken an important step in giving support to the development of poor areas to alleviate poverty by promoting family planning, holding population growth under control, and raising the life quality of the population in those areas. Since 1978, the state has adopted a series of measures to make those living below the poverty line drop from 250 million to 70 million in 1995. The Chinese government has combined the solution of the problem of the portion of society living under the poverty level with family planning to free families from the vicious cycle of "the poorer they are, the more children they give birth to, and the more children they give birth to, the poorer they become." In this respect, marked achievements have been obtained. In the community that have extricated themselves from poverty, farming households that have implemented family planning are often in a clearly advantageous position.
The positive impact produced by family planning on Chinese society is wide and profound. With the passing of time, the benefits of family planning, for the people and for posterity, are bound to be more apparent.