BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) -- China's fresh cabinet restructuring plan has the top economic planning agency assuming the task of creating population policies in the world's most populous nation, a move analysts say will enhance coordination in policy-making and benefit overall development.
According to the plan expected to be adopted at the ongoing annual parliamentary session, the existing National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will take on the functions of studying and drawing up population development strategies and policies, which are currently the work of the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC).
Analysts say population is the basis for making public policies. After the restructuring, the NDRC, which is responsible for formulating national social and economic development strategies, will help coordinate population policy making with that of other policies.
In the long run, this will give rise to sustained development between the population and the economic and natural environments, they say.
Ma Li, an expert on population studies and cabinet counsellor, said the population can be analyzed based on four factors -- size, demographics, distribution and education level.
To ensure sustainable and coordinated development between the population and the economy, environment and resources, it is essential to balance population policy with external conditions, Ma explained.
She said China's population is too large, not well educated and aging as a whole, and these problems are increasingly hampering development.
"These problems call for an over-arching strategy. Entrusting the NDRC to plan population policies and other strategies on an overall basis meets this requirement," she said.
Discrepancies between population policies and other development policies can often lead to social, economic and environmental challenges. Problems like corruption and severe unemployment can all be attributed to such discrepancies, to varying degrees, analysts say.
China is no stranger to the consequences of unrealistic population policies. The country's population soared in the 1970s, due to a lack of forward-thinking analysis, and this momentum continued until the one-child policy was implemented in the early 1980s.
According to Wang Guangzhou, a research fellow with the Institute of Population and Labor Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, research on population, especially research related to forecasting, is of paramount importance in drafting development strategies that satisfy both short-term and long-term needs.
The NDRC commissioned the NPFPC to draw up population development plans to be used as reference tools for the 11th and the 12th national five-year development blueprints, respectively, said Wang, who was consulted during the process.
"The NDRC's abilities in population policy research and creation will improve after it absorbs the expertise of the NPFPC. This will help it make social and economic policies on a more scientific and reliable basis," said Wang.
Under the cabinet reshuffle plan, a proposed new national health and family planning commission will handle family planning services and family planning policy matters. Amid speculation that the one-child policy will be relaxed, the plan says China will adhere to and improve the existing family planning policy.
There will be no change to the country's family planning policy, an official working in public sector reform said Monday, one day after the restructuring plan was revealed.
Citing the persistence of pressures facing residents and resources, Wang Feng, deputy head of the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform, said family planning will be beefed up, not weakened, as implementing the policy continues to be a chief responsibility of Party and government heads.
If the policy had not been launched over 30 years ago, there could be as many as 400 million people more than there are now in China, which is currently home to 1.37 billion people, according to the latest census carried out in 2010.
Still, analysts agree that there is room for improvement in China's population policy.
China's demographic dividend is gradually disappearing. The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in a country's mortality and fertility rates and the subsequent changes in the age structure of the population
Data show that the number of laborers on the Chinese mainland between the ages of 15 and 59 decreased by 3.45 million year on year in 2012, marking the first "absolute decrease" in China's labor force.
A report from the China Development Research Foundation estimates that the country's labor force will drop by about 29 million over the current decade. Meanwhile, the country's growing elderly population, people aged 60 and over, reached 194 million by the end of 2012.
Yi Dinghong, a professor with the School of Labor and Human Resources of Renmin University, said that as the population determines the labor supply and a labor shortage could potentially be a great barrier to lasting economic growth in China, the NDRC shouldering population policies would be in a better position to coordinate economic policies and the labor market.
Analysts also say it takes quite some time to see the effects of changes in population policies. As an agency that monitors macro-economic and -social development trends, the NDRC is the best-equipped organization to adjust population policies in an ever-changing economy.