Births in China raise world pace

The rate at which people are being born is speeding up again, just as world population prepares to pass the 5 billion milestone, a population study group reported this week. The private Population Reference Bureau cited an easing of strict birth limits in China as a prime reason for the turnaround in population growth.

The bureau's new World Population Data Sheet for 1987 estimates that the July 1 population of the world will be 5.026 billion. The United Nations also has projected that the world will pass the 5 billion milestone early in July.

In its report, the Population Reference Bureau estimated the worldwide birth rate at 28 births per 1,000 people, up from 27 last year. The world's rate had been 27 for two years, down from 28 in 1984 and 29 in 1983, the group said.

``If Beijing continues to ease up on its population policy, it will shatter current assumptions about a continuing slowdown in the global population's growth rate,'' said bureau specialist Carl Haub.

China's policy of one child per family had been effective in reducing growth in recent years, but it has not been stressed as heavily this year, said Mary Kent of the bureau.

As a result, China's birth rate jumped from 18 per 1,000 people in 1986 to 21 this year and ``they may have trouble getting it back down,'' Ms. Kent said in a phone interview.

``They didn't mean to ease up that much,'' she said, adding that there have been indications that Chinese officials plan to renew their stress on having small families.

Kent cited several factors for the Chinese increase in births, including some public reaction against the limits, a large number of young people moving into the childbearing ages, and some changes in the age at which people marry.

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