Fertility in China: An uncertain future.
Bottom Line: We suggest that the popular notion that the family planning restrictions are acting as a pressure valve suppressing a pent-up demand for childbearing, particularly in rural China, is likely to be inaccurate.We also suggest that further reform of the restrictions will not solve the problems of population ageing or many of the other issues widely associated with the restrictions.We conclude that the prospects for further reform are wide-ranging, but likely to be beset by many challenges.
Affiliation: a University of Oxford.
As one of the world's two population 'billionaires', the future of China's population is truly of global significance. With its very low fertility and a rapidly ageing population, it might appear that the country's famous (or notorious) family planning restrictions are somewhat anachronistic. Here, we explore the process of reform seen over the past three decades and, most recently, in late 2013. We suggest that the popular notion that the family planning restrictions are acting as a pressure valve suppressing a pent-up demand for childbearing, particularly in rural China, is likely to be inaccurate. We also suggest that further reform of the restrictions will not solve the problems of population ageing or many of the other issues widely associated with the restrictions. We conclude that the prospects for further reform are wide-ranging, but likely to be beset by many challenges.
No MeSH data available.
Mentions: As a consequence of very low fertility rates and negligible international immigration, China is clearly ageing very rapidly (see, for example, Wang 2011; Cai 2012; Mai et al. 2013). The effect is evident in the changing relative size of the populations aged 20–34 and 65 and over, which can be seen in the United Nations (UN) population projections for 2050 and 2100 shown in Figure 1. The 20–34 age group is the crucial one in two ways: it is of childbearing age and the flexibility and recently acquired skills of its members are of critical value to the capabilities of the labour force. Currently this age group outnumbers the population aged 65 and over by about three to one. Under the UN’s medium fertility scenario (which assumes a consistent rise in total fertility rate (TFR) from 1.63 in 2010 to 1.88 by 2100) this relationship will reverse, so that by mid-century the ratio of the younger group to the older will be around two to three, and will continue to increase until the century’s end. However, the long-term prospects of prolonged low fertility—of the order seen in Japan, for example—would lead to a ratio of more than one to two within a couple of generations. Indeed, some believe that even these projections could be optimistic, in part because of doubts about the baseline assumptions used in making them. There is considerable current debate over the ‘true’ current fertility rate for China, not least between different government bodies (Gu and Cai 2011; Basten et al. 2014). In 2013, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC 2013) officially stated that the national TFR was ‘1.5–1.6’, while others have suggested that the TFR is lower even than that, with Zhao and Chen (2011, p. 823) suggesting that TFR in the 2010 Census was ‘very likely to have been lower than 1.45’.
No MeSH data available.