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Arguments - Intervention Costs
Population Growth

The direct costs of China's family planning program are minimal, compared to its multiple economic and social advantages. For instance, a slower rate of population growth certainly makes it easier for China's agriculture to adapt to the growing food demand. However, there are also serious indirect social costs - particularly the rapid process of population aging, which is a consequence of the steep fertility decline during the past 20 years. Demographers have criticized China’s strict "one child" policy and suggested alternatives that would minimize these indirect costs.

Crucial issues
There are two types of costs of slowing rapid population growth:
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) The direct capital, personnel, and subsistence costs to run a family planning program; including the costs for education and training, for contraceptives and medical treatment.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) The indirect social, economic and political costs, associated with rapid population aging and resistance to the program.
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Direct costs and benefits Tables & Charts
Various studies have shown that a successful family planning program can be one of the best "investments" that a developing country with rapid population growth can make. The required financial, personnel, and technical resources are minimal, compared to the many advantages, which are not limited to a slow-down of population growth. As side effects family planning programs also promote basic health education and the improvement of personal hygiene. They also tend to increase parents' willingness and ability to promote their children's education and training.
The benefits of a successful family planning program are obvious: It slows population growth and thus reduces the demand for (additional) natural resources. In rural areas it slows down the increase in population pressure on arable land; in urban-industrial agglomerates it makes it easier to solve housing or unemployment problems. And most importantly: a slower increase in the number of people certainly makes it easier for China's resource-constrained agriculture to keep-up food production with the growing demand.
China's Population by Age Groups
Table 1

China's Population Increase by Age Groups
Table 2

Indirect costs and benefits  
But there are, of course, also serious disadvantages. China's extremely rapid fertility decline since 1975, which was certainly promoted by the family planning program, will have a "nasty" echo-effect in the next few decades: rapid population aging. The smaller birth cohorts from the late 1970s and 1980s will soon be in reproductive age. If their own fertility remains low the number of birth will further decline. According to the most recent UN World Population Prospects (the 1998 revision) the total number of children under the age of 5 will decline in China by about 11 million between 1995 and 2010 (see table 1 and 2 ). The number of people age 50 and above will more than triple from 209 million in 1995 to 631 million in 2050 (see figure 1). This aging will put an enormous burden on both formal and informal support systems for the elderly. Population Growth in China by Selected Age Groups
Figure 1
Related Arguments

Population:   Trends     Impact    Data Quality    Prediction Error    Intervention Possibilities    Intervention Costs

Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)