China’s Census Shows Aging Population; Officials Say Family Planning Policies To Be Maintained

China’s latest census shows that the proportion of elderly people in the country has increased, while the proportion of young people dropped significantly, but “leaders are refusing to relax strict family planning controls that are part of the cause,” the Associated Press reports (4/28).

“The population of the second largest economy in the world shot up by 73 million people over the past decade … according to new statistics released Thursday by China’s Bureau of National Statistics,” CNN reports. “The census also revealed that China’s population is also aging, better educated and made up of more migrants than ever, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics Ma Jiantang said in a news conference. The proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.6%, down by 6.29 percentage points from the last census, a decade earlier” (Kent, 4/28).

The census figures show “the trend of excessively rapid growth of China’s population has been under effective control,” Ma said, Reuters reports. “Ma did not announce any policy changes, but he hinted that the census results could lead to adjustments. China, he said, would have to ‘actively respond to the new challenges in demographic development'” (Buckley/Martina, 4/28).

Ahead of the census data release, Chinese President Hu Jintao said China does not plan to change its family planning policy, the AP/TIME reports (Olesen, 4/27). “Hu told top state leaders at a group study of the Political Bureau of the ruling Party’s Central Committee Tuesday that the policy – which limits most urban couples to one child and rural families to two – should be maintained and improved. But no birth rate target or other specific details were given,” the People’s Daily Online writes (4/28).

“There has been growing speculation among Chinese media, experts and ordinary people about whether the government would soon relax” family planning policies, AP/TIME notes. Wang Feng, a population expert and director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in Beijing, said Hu’s comments are “an important signal that the debate has reached a high level and that changes will be on the way” (4/27).