BEIJING - China's population is projected to reach 1.4 billion by the end of 2015, when the urban population will become the majority for the first time, officials said.
Li Bin, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said the population on the mainland will reach 1.39 billion by the end of 2015, among which as many as 700 million people will be living in urban areas.
It will be the first time that the urban population exceeds the rural population in the country, she said.
Li's estimates were released on Saturday during a speech at the annual conference of the China Population Association in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province.
As the world's most populous country, China's population was 1.32 billion at the end of 2008, about 2.5 times its size in 1949 when the People's Republic of China was founded, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
To put a hold on the fast pace of growth, the Chinese government adopted a family planning policy in the late 1970s. The policy has enabled China's total population to increase less than 40 percent between 1978 and 2008, whereas it nearly doubled between 1949 and 1978.
However, the development of China's population is expected to pass through major transitional stages, Li said.
"The increase in the next five years is based on the momentum of the nation's population, which will begin to decline after 2015," she said.
Population momentum is the tendency of a highly fertile population that has rapidly increased in size to continue to do so for decades - even after the onset of a substantial decline in fertility.
Duan Chengrong, a demographics professor at Renmin University of China, said the rising proportion of the urban population is due to the population flow, along with the process of urbanization.
"China's urbanization rate was 46.7 percent in 2009 and it is expected to reach 50 percent around 2012. There is a trend in China for more people to live in cities, especially in second-tier cities," he said.
In 2009, 606.67 million of the country's 1.32 billion population were urban dwellers, while the remaining 721.35 million were rural inhabitants.
Moreover, the first boom in China's aging population is expected over the next five years, when those aged 60 or over will top 200 million by the end of 2015, statistics from the annual conference show.
"The ratio of the population aged 15 to 59 will peak and then slowly fall over the next five years, but the country will still have a sufficient labor force," Duan said.
Xinhua contributed to this story.
(China Daily 07/05/2010 page2)