China’s Low Fertility: Evidence from the 2010 Census

Abstract

After four decades of strict birth control, the rapid growth of China's population has been curbed. According to the official figures, the total fertility rate dropped below replacement level in the early 1990s, and has continued to decline since then, remaining at a very low level since the early 2000s. This long-lasting low fertility is therefore expected to have significant consequences for China's demographic future, especially in terms of the decline in working-age population and the acceleration of population ageing. As early as 1980, when the one-child policy was enforced, the Central Committee of China's Communist Party (CCP) had anticipated rapid demographic ageing and pledged to take preventive measures, among which the possibility of relaxing the birth control policy " after thirty years " (CCP 1980). In 2000, however, the Central Committee of the CCP and the State Council issued the " Decision on the strengthening of population control and family planning to stabilize the low fertility rate " , which was reiterated in 2006 (CCP 2000; CCP 2006). It was not until 2012 and the 18th national congress of CCP that the official discourse began to change. It now calls for " adhering to the basic national family planning policy, improving the quality of births, and gradually perfecting population policies to promote a long-term and well-balanced development of the population " , with the notable omission of any further reference to the need to " stabilize low fertility " (Hu 2012). This change in the official discourse is clearly linked to the concomitant release of the results of China's sixth national population census conducted in 2010 (NBS 2011; PCO 2012), which, among other results, revealed acute population ageing, occurring even faster than expected.

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