by Xinhua writers Li Laifang, Xu Xiaoqing and Xu Yang
BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday the country will progressively improve its population policy and solve related problems to promote long-term and balanced growth.
In response to changes in the size and structure of China's total population, the country should comprehensively solve problems relating to the size, health, structure and geographical distribution of its people and promote long-term, balanced population development, said Wen.
The country should adhere to the basic state policy on family planning, Wen said in a government work report delivered to the opening of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.
It is necessary to stick to the family planning policy as the country still has a big population and its resources and environment face great pressure, said Yan Chenzhong, a NPC deputy.
But analysts said it is fair and reasonable to improve the population policy in accordance with realities.
Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics in January showed the number of laborers on the Chinese mainland between the ages of 15 and 59 decreased by 3.45 million year on year in 2012, marking the first "absolute decrease" in China's labor force.
A report from the China Development Research Foundation forecast the country's labor force will decrease by about 29 million over the current decade.
There have been calls to adjust the one-child policy which has been implemented for more than 30 years to curb the rapid population growth. It is estimated the policy has resulted in a reduction of some 400 million people in China.
Meanwhile, the country's growing elderly population aged 60 and over reached 194 million at the end of 2012, accounting for 14.3 percent of the total, a report of the China Research Center on Aging said.
"As the population aging era comes, China's first demographic dividend will end sooner or later. We should make use of the next demographic dividend by focusing on quality," said Cai Fang, an expert in population and economy studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
Yang Yunyan, a member of the national political advisory body, said a balance should be reached between population development and economic, social development, resources and environment.
The size, quality and structure of the population should also be balanced. In the long run, neither rapid growth nor sharp decrease of the population is conducive to social development, said Yang.
The urbanization level rose to 52.6 percent last year, marking a historic turning point in China's urban-rural structure, according to the government report.
Imbalance in the sex ratio at birth is another problem although it is declining. In 2012, China registered a sex ratio at birth of 117.7 boys for every 100 girls, much higher than the normal ratio of 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls.
In China, many parents have lost their only child and live alone. Statistics from the Ministry of Health showed the country saw an annual increase of 76,000 families who lost their only child and that the total number of such families had exceeded one million.
"Parents would feel like they have lost everything if their only child dies," said Zhang Yayu, a resident in Shanghai. She suggested the population policy should consider this aspect in adjustment plans.
According to Yang Tuan, a CASS sociologist, to adapt to demographic changes means a transitional period is coming for the population policy.