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Regional Imbalances Emerge in Population Growth

The China Youth Daily reported on Monday that as of the end of 2003, China’s population held at 1.3 billion, accounting for 21 percent of the world’s total. The country’s population now features a low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate.

However, birthrate imbalances between urban and rural areas and between eastern and western areas have also emerged.


Today, the urban birthrate is lower than the rural birthrate. The one-child policy is strictly implemented in cities, while in China’s vast rural areas it is still common to see one couple with two or more children.


“Although the birthrate is generally low, it continues to rise in rural areas where medical care and education are hard to guarantee to children,” the article said.


There is also a birthrate gap between the country’s well-developed east and economically backward west. High-gear economic growth and fast-paced lifestyles have changed urban people’s feelings about raising children.


The average ages for marriage and pregnancy have climbed in the economically developed cities and the “DINK (dual income no kids) concept” has been accepted by increasing numbers of affluent couples in those cities.


In metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai, birthrate growth has gone into negative territory. In the western regions, however, many people still feel that extending the family tradition through raising children is essential. Violations of the family planning policy are thus relatively common.


The China Youth Daily article commented that population policies should focus on improvement of overall population quality as well as on control of numbers. If rural birthrate growth continues to outpace that of the cities, the economic development gap between urban and rural areas will be aggravated and the country’s comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development program will be undermined.


At the same time, the country’s first “only child” generation has come to the age of supporting their aging parents. This makes the need for a sound, stable social security system even more urgent.


Earlier this month at an academic forum held in Beijing, National Population and Family Planning Commission Minister Zhang Weiqing mentioned other population issues, such as the growing male-female imbalance and population aging. He advised more research on population development strategies to solve these and other population issues.


(Xinhua News Agency May 25, 2004)

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