New York Times News Service

BEIJING — Recent reports of women being coerced into late-term abortions by local officials have thrust China’s population control policy into the spotlight and ignited an outcry among policy advisers and scholars who are seeking to push central officials to fundamentally change or repeal a law that penalizes families for having more than one child.

Pressure to alter the policy is building on other fronts as well, as economists say China’s aging population and dwindling pool of young, cheap labor will be a significant factor in slowing the economic growth rate.

“An aging working population is resulting in a labor shortage, a less innovative and less energetic economy, and a more difficult path to industrial upgrading,” said He Yafu, a demographics analyst. China’s population of 1.3 billion is the world’s largest, and the central government still seems focused on limiting that number through the one-child policy, He said. Abolishing the one-child policy, though, might not be enough to bring the birthrate up to a “healthy” level because of other factors, he said.

Beyond debate about the law itself, critics say that enforcement of the policy leads to widespread abuses, including forced abortions, because many local governments reward or penalize officials based on how well they keep down the population.

Last month the one-child policy came under sharp criticism from a group of scholars and former senior policy advisers at a forum at Peking University co-organized by the National Bureau of Statistics to discuss the results of the 2010 census.