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Yunnan's birth rate down sharply; population to peak at 60 million

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Family planning and contraception services cadres from 16 Yunnan prefectures competed against each other to display their mastery of the province's "three basics of family planning training handbook" in Kunming last week.

The September 15 to 17 competition included verbal and written quizzes along with essay and speech contests about the "basic theory, basic knowledge and basic skills" of family planning. It was held to improve the quality of Yunnan's family planning services, according to a Xinhua report.

Adult civil servants vying to deliver the better speech on contraceptive techniques may seem unorthodox, but statistics released over the weekend show that Yunnan has made considerable progress in reducing its birth rate since China's one-child policy was put into effect in 1979.

Yunnan's total fertility rate has plummeted from six births per woman 30 years ago to a present rate of just 1.9 births per woman, the Provincial Population and Family Planning Commission said in a report released on Sunday.

The report also estimated that the one-child policy and other family planning efforts have resulted in 14.5 million fewer births in Yunnan during those 30 years.

Yunnan's population, therefore, is currently about 45 million instead of the 60 million it would otherwise have been—and it may actually peak at 60 million if the total fertility rate stays at its current level.

A long-term rate of at least 2.1 births per woman is generally needed for zero population change, so Yunnan's population would eventually fall if the fertility rate remained at 1.9 births per woman.

Officially called the family planning policy (计划生育政策), China's one-child policy limits most urban couples to a single child. But Yunnan's drop in birth rates might also be attributed to the province's economic development and government efforts at expanding access to family planning services and contraceptives.

It is relatively common across China for urban families to pay large fines in order to have multiple children. Furthermore, the one-child policy does not apply to most rural residents and ethnic minorities, both of which are numerous in Yunnan.

There are estimated to be only about 2.4 million one-child families in Yunnan.

The report noted that economic development has played a large part in the decline in birth rates. Over the same 30-year period average urban net income rose by 40 times and rural income rose by 22 times.

There was no word on which Yunnan prefecture took top prize in the contraception competition.

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