A crackdown aimed at preventing unapproved births has succeeded in reducing China’s population growth rate in the first half of this year, officials said Thursday.
Births averaged 8.84 per 1,000 people in the first six months of the year, down from 10.04 per 1,000 in the first half of 1987, Liang Jimin, a family planning official who recently helped direct a nationwide fertility and birth control survey, said at a press conference.
Liang added, however, that after conducting the survey, China is more aware than ever of “the serious situation” it faces in trying to limit population growth.
Liang had said in February that stricter birth control measures would be implemented because China was in the midst of a baby boom. He said then that increased pressure would be brought to bear on local government cadres and on women of child-bearing age to adhere to a decade-old policy limiting most couples to one child.
Aggressive efforts at persuasion and the threat of heavy fines are used to encourage couples to use contraceptives and to pressure women to abort unapproved pregnancies.
Last year there were 46 abortions for every 100 live births, Li Honggui, director of the Department of Planning and Statistics for the State Family Planning Commission, said at the news conference. Officials said they had no abortion fiures for this year.
Although central government officials have said repeatedly that it is a violation of policy for local cadres to force women to have abortions, efforts at persuasion sometimes exceed approved limits and become outright coercion. It is not clear how often this happens.
Tougher Policies Cited
At Thursday’s press conference, Liang attributed the reduced birthrate primarily to the tougher Communist Party and State Council policies and to more effective efforts to implement them.
“Leadership in this work has been strengthened, and grassroots-level organization has been made more complete,” Liang said. “The efforts of personnel all across the country have caused the birthrate to show some decrease.”
Li confirmed reports that in rural areas, where families generally want at least one son to help in the fields and carry on the family name, exceptions may be made to the rule of one child per couple.
“For those couples who have practical difficulties, especially if the first is a girl, they can have a second child after a period of spacing,” Li said.
Statistics released at the press conference showed that the birthrate for 1987 was higher than initially reported--and thus that China’s population problem may be more severe than had been believed. In February, Liang said the population growth rate in 1987 was 1.45%, but Thursday he said the latest figures indicate it was actually 1.62%.
This compares with official population growth rates of 1.1% in 1985 and 1.41% in 1986.
Liang said in February that 22 million babies were born in 1987, but figures released Thursday indicated that there were at least 23 million.
Birthrates in China are normally higher in the second half of the year than in the first half, and the rate for all last year was 23.26 per 1,000, Li said Thursday. This year’s total almost certainly will more than double the figure of 8.84 per 1,000 in the first six months, but still be significantly less than last year, he said.
China’s population, the largest of any country, is officially estimated at 1.08 billion as of the end of 1987. China has been hoping to limit its population to no more than 1.2 billion at the end of this century, but some official statements have recently indicated that there could be as many as 1.28 billion people in China by the year 2000 unless stricter controls are enforced.