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Rapid ageing poses threat to nation's economic boom

China's population is ageing rapidly, the government said yesterday, though its leaders are still refusing to relax strict family planning controls.

The results of a national census conducted last year show the proportion of elderly people in the country of 1.34 billion jumped, while that of young people plunged sharply. The census results also show that half the population now lives in cities.

The census gives a snapshot of the demographic shifts under way in China in the past decade, as economic reforms raise living standards and pull more people off farms into the cities while families shrink and the population ages.

China's rapid ageing has fuelled worries over how long the country will be able to sustain its high economic growth, as fewer young people are available to work in factories and build the roads that transformed it into the world's second biggest economy after the United States.

The census results show that people aged 60 and above comprise 13.3 per cent of the population, up nearly 3 percentage points from 2000. People aged 14 and under accounted for 16.6 per cent, down 6.3 percentage points from a decade ago.