Experts at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences have called on the government to accelerate the scrapping of the one-child policy as they warned that the country’s birthrate is moving towards a dangerously low level that could stunt economic growth.
The fertility rate is now 1.4 children per woman, close to the 1.3 level that is recognized globally as the “low fertility trap”, China Daily said, citing a CASS report released on Monday.
Once a country falls into the low fertility trap, three self-reinforcing mechanisms－demographic, sociological and economic－will conspire to maintain a downward spiral in fertility that is difficult to reverse, according to the report.
Because of the one-child policy, the country’s birth rate has dropped from 4.77 children per woman in the 1970s to 1.64 in 2011, the newspaper said, citing official statistics. However, the positive effects of slowing population growth have gradually disappeared since 2010, it said.
“The low fertility rate will result in other problems such as a shortage in the labor force and the economic burden from an aging society,” said Lu Yang, an associate researcher from the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Lu said scrapping the one-child policy nationwide will not have an effect on the population and the economy in the short term, but will help bolster the labor pool and economic stability in the long run.
In November last year, the central government allowed couples to have a second child if either of them is an only child.
Several cities and provinces have released guidelines to implement the new policy.
But according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, only 700,000 couples applied to have a second child as of Nov. 5, the newspaper said.
“The expected baby boom didn’t arrive. And people’s willingness to have babies will decline with economic development. The earlier we promote a second-child policy, the sooner we will see the positive effects it brings,” CASS deputy director Cai Fang was quoted as saying.
“Of course some negative results will also come with the new population policy, but they are very limited compared to the benefits the policy would bring,” he added.
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