BEIJING: A Chinese expert has called for an end to China's controversial family planning policy, claiming the world's second-largest economy's population will be only 65 per cent of India's by 2050 due to the one-child policy pursued by the government.
China ended its decades-old one-child policy in 2016 and permitted couples to have two children as the population of elderly rose with declining numbers of young people.
China had more than 230.8 million people aged 60 or above at the end of 2016, 16.7 per cent of the country's total population, the Ministry of Civil Affairs had said in August 2017.
By international standards, a country or region is considered to be an "ageing society" when the number of people aged 60 or above comprises at least 10 per cent of the total population.
"China has entered a low fertility trap and that its aging population will impede economic development. China should make tremendous reforms to its social structure, and the first step is to end the policy," Yi Fuxian, a US-based researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told state-run Global Times.
If China maintains its fertility rate of 1.2 by 2050 and 2100, its population would be 65 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively, of India's population, Yi said.
China introduced its one-child family planning policy in 1979 and replaced it with the two-child policy in January 2016.
Chinese officials estimate that the one-child policy started in 1979 has prevented 400 million births.
Yi argued that the family planning policy has helped the country reduce the number of births by 400 million as of 2018, instead of 2005.
Citing the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme, Yi said, "If the country had not implemented its family planning policy, China's fertility rate would nevertheless have dropped along with its economic development."
The index uses three criteria: life expectancy, education, and purchasing power parity.
Yi claimed that the index is inversely proportional to the fertility rate.
He added India never implemented such a policy, but its fertility rate dropped from 5.6 in 1970 to 2.18 in 2017.
"China's HDI far exceeds India's. If China had not implemented the policy, the fertility rate's decline would also be faster than India's," Yi said.
Reports say China plans to scrap the family planning policy altogether.
"Since the 1970s, due to the rapid population growth, China implemented the family planning program. Without the policy, it would have been difficult to stimulate China's production capability and drag the country out of the low-income trap," Ma Li, former head of the Beijing-based China Population and Development Research Center, told the Global Times yesterday.
"The policy is crucial to helping the country restart its economic growth engine," Ma said.
China's young generation puts more emphasis on realising self-worth.
Along with the widespread coverage of the social security system, Chinese people no longer rely too much on their children.
The decline in the fertility rate is inevitable, Ma said, adding that it's time for the government to adjust the family planning policy.
The adjustment aims to optimise current demographics, turning the government's function from managing to serving, Ma said.
The government should soon release several policies to reduce the burden of raising a family, such as establishing more kindergartens and lowering school fees, Ma added.