China - Demographics

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of the People's Republic of China

The national census of 2010 recorded the population of the People's Republic of China as approximately 1,338,612,968. About 21% of the population (145,461,833 males; 128,445,739 females) were 14 years old or younger, 71% (482,439,115 males; 455,960,489 females) were between 15 and 64 years old, and 8% (48,562,635 males; 53,103,902 females) were over 65 years old. The population growth rate for 2006 was 0.6%.

By end of 2010, the proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.60%, while the number aged 60 or older grew to 13.26%, giving a total proportion of 29.86% dependents. The proportion of the population of workable age was thus around 70%.

Although a middle-income country by Western standards, China's rapid growth has pulled hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty since 1978. Today, about 10% of the Chinese population lives below the poverty line of US$1 per day, down from 64% in 1978. Urban unemployment in China reportedly declined to 4% by the end of 2007, although true overall unemployment may be as high as 10%.

With a population of over 1.3 billion and dwindling natural resources, China is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted, with mixed results, to implement a strict family planning policy, known as the "one-child policy." The government's goal is one child per family, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and a degree of flexibility in rural areas. It is hoped that population growth in China will stabilize in the early decades of the 21st century, though some projections estimate a population of anywhere between 1.4 billion and 1.6 billion by 2025. China's family planning minister has indicated that the one-child policy will be maintained until at least 2020.

The one-child policy is resisted, particularly in rural areas, because of the need for agricultural labour and a traditional preference for boys (who can later serve as male heirs). Families who breach the policy often lie during the census.

The decreasing reliability of China population statistics since family planning began in the late 1970s has made evaluating the effectiveness of the policy difficult. Data from the 2010 census implies that the total fertility rate may now be around 1.4. The government is particularly concerned with the large imbalance in the sex ratio at birth, apparently the result of a combination of traditional preference for boys and family planning pressure, which led to a ban on using ultrasound devices for non-emergency applications, in an attempt to prevent sex-selective abortion.

According to the 2010 census, there were 118.06 boys born for every 100 girls, which is 0.53 points lower than the ratio obtained from a population sample survey carried out in 2005. However, the gender ratio of 118.06 is still beyond the normal range of around 105 percent, and experts warn of increased social instability should this trend continue. For the population born between the years 1900 and 2000, it is estimated that there could be 35.59 million fewer females than males. Other demographers argue that perceived gender imbalances may arise from the underreporting of female births. A recent study suggests that as many as three million Chinese babies are hidden by their parents every year. According to the 2010 census, males accounted for 51.27 percent of the total population, while females made up 48.73 percent of the total.

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