BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China will maintain its one-child policy for at least another decade, the country's family planning minister said in an interview published Monday.
Nearly 200 million Chinese will enter child-bearing age over the next 10 years, the government says.
The policy, begun in the 1970s, prohibits most couples from bearing more than one child.
Nearly 200 million Chinese will enter child-bearing age in the next 10 years, Minister Zhang Weiqing told the China Daily newspaper. He said abandoning the policy during this period would cause "serious problems and add extra pressure on social and economic development."
"After the new birth peak ends, we may adjust the policy if there is a need," he said.
China's population, which now stands at about 1.3 billion, is growing at the rate of 0.6 percent and is expected to peak around 1.6 billion by 2050, according to the U.S. State Department.
China's Communist Party first implemented the one-child rule three decades ago amid fears that the country would not be able to feed a skyrocketing population. The policy has prevented about 400 million births, the China Daily said.
Families living in cities are barred from having more than one child -- unless neither parents have siblings. In rural areas, the law allows for a second child under certain circumstances. And the guidelines are also looser for ethnic minorities with small population.
Enforcement varies but usually takes the form of fines to discourage extra births.
While the policy has helped curb population growth, it has also led to forced sterilizations in some parts of the country, the State Department said. Because of a traditional preference for male heirs, many Chinese have aborted female fetuses, according to human rights groups.
Even within the country, there have been growing calls in recent years for the law to be overhauled, the China Daily said. Some Chinese worry that the law has led to a gender imbalance. They also worry about China's aging population. Those 60 years of age and older are expected to make up more than 200 million in the next seven years, according to government figures.
Zhang said the problems should not be blamed solely on the one-child rule and "it will be simplistic" to look for a single approach in addressing them. E-mail to a friend