Smaller families becoming the new normal

By LI LEI | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-12 08:07
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Grandparents and children relax at a pavilion in Tianjin. China's average household size is below the "three-person-family" benchmark. LI RAN/XINHUA

Various factors in play as record decline sees number fall below decades-old benchmark

China's household size has hit a record low and dipped below a benchmark, the seventh national census showed, as the country navigates a fast-shifting demography.

According to the census, there are 2.62 members per family, down from 3.1 a decade ago.

The figure has dipped below the "three-person-family" benchmark-which the government had promoted between 1980 and 2015 when stricter family planning policy was in place.

Experts said a rising number of childless, single-parent and one-person families have weighed down the number, but insisted that there's no need to overreact.

"I was a bit surprised by the new figure," said Zhuang Ya'er, a researcher with the China Population and Development Research Center, who tracks family size data.

"It is well below three and rather close to the level in developed economies," she added.

The figure had fluctuated slightly above three over the past decade, except in 2014 when it briefly fell to 2.97 only to return above three the next year.

The authorities started tracking the figure since the first national census, rolled out four years after the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

The 1953 survey found that the average size of a household was 4.33 in the then largely rural nation.

The number fluctuated between four and 4.5 for decades, until it sank below four in the 1990 census-a decade after the introduction of family planning policy-and trended downward in all of the following surveys.

China's family size is relatively small by global standards, said Zhang Jing, a Beijing-based researcher on family development.

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