China's one-child policy hasn't worked as well as hoped, officials said Wednesday as they released census figures showing China has 1.133 billion people - 20 million more than anticipated.
The discovery, the result of a door-to-door head count in July that was the biggest ever conducted in the world, is the equivalent of finding that the entire population of Australia had been overlooked among China's masses."Our planners overestimated their capacity to control the population," Zhang Sai, director general of the State Statistics Bureau, told a news conference.
"If we look at the absolute figure of 20 million, it is equal to the total population of a province," he said, trying to explain why these people had been missed before. "But if we take into account the large size of the population, it amounts to only 1.8 percent, so it is not that big."
The figure of 1.133 billion also could be under by several million, however, because a random recount in sample areas showed those areas were undercounted by 0.6 percent, according to preliminary data released Wednesday.
China already has a strict family planning policy that sets the goal of one child per couple. Most cities enforce that strictly, and couples that dare to have a second child face steep fines, dismissal from work and explusion from the Communist Party.
But in many rural areas, because of peasants' desire for boys to work in the fields, local authorities have allowed couples to have two children if the first is a girl. In other areas, officials have tolerated large families because they, too, want many children or have set fines that well-off peasants can easily pay.
Many children born outside the official plan were not registered with authorities before the census.
Zhang said he did not know of any proposal to stiffen penalties for extra births in light of the census results.
Zhang said the population is likely to continue growing by 15 million to 17 million people annually through 1996 because of a peak in the number of women of childbearing age.