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IDRC Rep. 1986 Jul;15(3):22-3.

The one-child solution: declining fertility in China.



China is undergoing a demographic transition with a rapidity never before experienced. The nation's crude birth rates dropped from an estimated high of about 50 births/1000 population in 1963 to only 21/1000 in 1983. Deaths rates also declined markedly. Consequently, the population growth rate for the 1980-85 period, 1.17% per year, approximated that of the industrialized world. These dramtic declines have been attributed primarily to China's vigorous family planning program, the promotion of 1-child families, and a system of related rewards and penalties. The goal is to halt population growth by the year 2000 at 1.2 billion and gradually to reduce the population size in the year thereafter. The most current contributions to China's growing bank of demographic information are coming from an in-depth fertility survey conducted in April 1985 by the State Statistical Bureau. The results will provide information on fertility, contraception, abortion, infant mortality, family size preferences, and attitudes toward government policy. The survey covered the provinces of Hebei and Shaanxi and the municipality of Shanghai. In each area, a random sample of 5000-7000 households was selected. From these, all women of childbearing age who had ever been married were interviewed, more than 13,000 respondent. The success of China's family planning program is demonstrated by a marked decline in fertility. The total fertility rate (TFR) dropped from 5.4 in the 1940s to 2.6 in 1981 for the country as a whole. The 1985 survey showed a further decline, at least for the 3 study areas, with TFRs of 2.4, 2.3, and 1.1 in Hebei, Shaanxi, and Shanghai, respectively. These large rural-urban differences between the provinces and Shanghai are attributed to the greater intensity of family planning programs in urban areas. Another important factor contributing to lower fertility is the transition to later marrying ages of women over the past 30 years. In the 3 surveyed areas, 70-80% of the women interviewed had used at least 1 family planning method, and the large majority were practicing birth control at the time of the study 83% in Shanghai, 76% in Hebei, and 69% in Shaanxi. Since 1979, in keeping with the 1-child family policy, the Chinese government has been issuing single-child certificates to couples with 1 baby who pledge to have no more. In 1982, 43% of single offspring mothers had accepted the 1-child certificate. Only 6% of certificate holders interviewed had failed to maintain their pledge. Infant deaths among certificate holding families were rare. Despite its record to date, China's population policy still faces many challenges, including the need to improve family planning acceptance in rural areas.

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