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Chinese population growth slows; New Delhi bans babies

China’s State Statistics Bureau announced in mid-February that recent surveys indicated the country’s rate of population growth had slowed down during the past five years.

Between 1991 to the end of 1995, the Bureau said that China’s “average growth in its population [was] 1.21 percent a year,” a decrease of 0.34 percentage points from the 1986-1990 period. (The lower percentage growth rate equates to a 21.9 percent decrease in the former 5-year rate of 1.55 percent.)

Nevertheless, China’s population reached 1.2 billion in February 1995, a level the government had plotted to delay until the year 2000. The new official goal is to limit China’s population to 1.3 billion at the century’s end.

During the five-year period 1991-1995, the Statistics Bureau reported that China’s population had increased by some 74 million people — a yearly increase of about 14.8 million. However, in 1995 about 20.6 million babies were born, down by 470,000 compared with 1994, while 7.9 million died, an increase of 1 80,000. (According to these statistics, 1995’s population increment was thus 12.7 million people, a significant drop from previous levels.)

Although China’s urban population accounted for nearly 29 percent of the country’s population in 1995, up from 26 percent in 1990, the level of urbanization was still well below that found in most industrialized nations.

The demographic data was based on a nationwide survey of 12.6 million people — slightly over 1% of the populace — conducted last October. (Reuters, Beijing, 14 February.)

Authorities in the Indian capital of New Delhi are considering legislation that would bar prospective candidates from running for public office if they have more than two children.

Supporters of the proposed bill say the law, which would affect only candidates for New Delhi’s local government, would help promote small families in India. Indian authorities, preoccupied with the problems of a burgeoning population, have often talked about such a policy but no state government has yet adopted such a law.

New Delhi’s health minister indicated that prospective candidates for office who have more than two children before the act is passed would not be disqualified. The proposed law would also have a 10-month grace period before taking effect. New Delhi authorities said they intend to propose the bill during the next legislative session. (UPI, New Delhi, 12 January.)

Polish citizens, apparently worried about high unemployment and economic hardship, are having fewer children while the country’s death rate remains high, according to official figures released in late November. As a result, “The difference between the number of births and deaths has reached an astonishingly low level, unprecedented in Poland since the war,” the Central Statistics Office (GUS) said.

Only 445,000 births were recorded last year, 166,000 less than in 1990, the year after the overthrow of Communism, and some 38 percent lower than in the peak year of 1983, Overall, GUS estimated that in 1995 Poland’s population will grow by just 43,000 (0.1 percent) to 38.6 million. (Reuter, Warsaw, 1 December.)

The birthrate in Moscow appears to have risen slightly in 1995 for the first time in several years, according to the Tass news agency. “There were 850 more births in the city in the first half of 1995 than in the same period in 1994,” Moscow Health Department head Anatoly Solovev told the agency.

The rise in births suggests that health standards may be improving in the Russian capital. According to Solovev the infant mortality rate dropped to 156 deaths per 10,000 births last year, down from 174 out of every 10,000 in 1994. Although Solovev admitted the “changes are not very impressive,” they nevertheless were a welcome relief from the growing infant mortality rate and lower birth rates experienced in recent years. Russians have been particularly worried about these rates since 1992 when the number of deaths in the country overtook the number of births for the first time since World War II.

Since living standards in Moscow are far higher than in the rest of Russia, the statistics do not indicate that living conditions have improved in the nation as a whole. The average lifespan of Russian men has fallen from 65 years in the early 1980s to 57 years in the mid-1990s and deaths continue to exceed births. Accordingly, the Russian population is declining and Health Ministry officials predict that “by 1997 the number of [Russian] children age[d] 3 to 6 will drop 26 percent.” (UPI, Moscow, 21 January.)

In January, President Fernando Henrique Cardoso vetoed legislation that would legalize voluntary sterilization in Brazil.

Cardoso, however, was quickly quoted as saying that he had “made a mistake,” and his wife Ruth Cardoso, a sociologist, told Rio newspapers that her husband had “forgot[ten] to talk to [her].” Mrs. Cardoso explained that the Brazilian government had “the obligation to guarantee women the right to choose from all methods of family planning.”

Despite its illegality, sterilization is widely believed to be the second most common form of birth control in Brazil after the Pill. Statistics compiled by Brazil’s Health Ministry indicate more than 27% of Brazilian women of chi1d-bearing age have been sterilized. Other reports put the sterilization figure at more than 40 percent, many of them allegedly performed as a prerequisite for employment. The vetoed legislation would have permitted voluntary sterilization of adults over age 25 who have two or more children. (Associated Press, Rio de Janeiro, 21 January.)

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