Population and Average
Number of Children per Woman in China, 1950-2100
Source: United Nations, Department of Social and Economic Affairs,
Population Division: World Population Prospects, The 2010 Revision.
New York, 2011 (www.unpopulation.org)
Note: This chart displays interpolated Total Fertility Rates
for single years. For Total Fertility the last year is 2099.
According to the 2010 Revision of the
United Nations World Population Prospects, China's women, on
average, had more than 6 children in the early 1950s. The Total
Fertility Rate (TFR), which measures the average number of children
per women, briefly dropped in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as
China went through the disaster of the "Great Leap Forward", one of
largest man-made famines in recorded history. By the late 1960s, China's TFR had again increased to almost 6 children
per woman. The very high fertility in the early 1950s and late 1960s
corresponded well with Mao's political dogma that a huge population
would promote China's military and political power. The
high fertility caused the enormous population increase of modern China and
is responsible for the huge momentum effect which is now
China's age structure.
|However, with the start of
China's "one-child" population policy the country experienced one
of the most dramatic fertility declines in human history -
particularly if one takes into account the large number of people
that where involved in it. Hundreds of
millions of Chinese women reduced their fertility and by the late 1990s
the country's TFR had dropped below the so-called reproductive level of
about 2.1. Measured by (period) fertility, China's women, on
average, had less children than were necessary to replace the parent
|While fertility measures
in China are still highly uncertain most experts agree that the TFR
is now around 1.6 - far below the reproductive level of 2.1. The range of
uncertainty is indicated by the fact that credible sources have
published TFR estimates that range between 1.4 and 1.8 children per
women. The future trend of fertility in China is highly uncertain.
In their medium variant projection the United Nations Population
Division assumes a slight increase of fertility to 1.79 children per
women in 2050, and to 2.01 children in 2100, which would still be
below the reproductive level.
|With this medium variant
fertility projection (which is based on the median of a
probabilistic fertility projection), China's population would
decline from a peak of 1.395 billion in 2025 to 941 million in 2100.
Assuming that China's total fertility would remain constant at current levels, the
population would increase - by population momentum alone - to 1.409
billion people around 2025, before declining to 1.303 billion in
2050 and 829 million people
in 2100. However, with an average fertility of about half a child
more, China's population could easily increase to 1.479 billion in
2050 and 1.587 billion in 2100 - as
indicated by the high variant of the 2010 Revision of the United
Nations World Population Prospects.
|The now extended
projection period of the United Nations World Population Prospects
clearly illustrates that even moderate changes in total fertility of
one half-child up or down could lead to vastly different total
population size in China by the end of the century: According to the
low fertility projection China's population would be 506 million
by 2100; according to the high fertility projection, the population
would be 1.587 billion. A one child difference in total
fertility (which is the difference between the low and high
fertility variant) is equivalent to a tripling of the population in
This section was updated on 8 June 2011.