LHASA, May 2, 2008-- The 49-year-old farmer Zhoi'ma, a mother of eight in Gonggar County in the Shannan Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, is worried about her eldest daughter who has reached marriageable age.
"I'm afraid she would follow my suit and give birth to many children," she said. "The more children a family has, the heavier the financial burden it has to bear."
Zhoi'ma's mother gave birth to 13 children but five of them died very young because of poverty and poor medical conditions at that time.
At the age of 20, Zhoi'ma got married and worked hard with her husband so their life was not difficult.
"But we ended up poor after the children were born one after another. We didn't have enough food for children, let alone sending them to school."
Zhoi'ma said when the eighth child was born, their biggest problem was to procure clothes for them.
"We save everything, even an egg, in exchange for money so that we could pay for the children's clothes."
In fact, Zhoi'ma's concern that too many children would cripple a family has been somewhat redundant among young farmers and herders in Tibet. Most of the young people have adopted a different attitude from their elders: they prefer to have fewer children and focus more on health care.
"More women in the rural areas have also realized that having too many children may have an adverse impact on the quality of life as well as the rearing of the children," said Purbu Zhoi'ma, a former official with the region's health department.
In 1985, the local government of Tibet adopted a regulation which encouraged family planning among Tibetan cadres and workers and urged them to have two children over a period of time.
"There has been no restriction on how many children farmers and herdsmen can have," Purbu Zhoi'ma said. "However, more Tibetans are inclined to give up this privilege."
A survey that was conducted on 317 Tibetan women in Lhasa, Xigaze and Nagqu shows that 93 percent of the respondents would have only two or three children.
Bangsang Zhoi'ma, 31, is a farmer in Lamu village, Dagze town, who has two children. Her son is a third grader at a primary school and her daughter will go to school next year.
"Our goal is to support our children to finish university," Bangsang Zhoi'ma said. "If we had more children, we wouldn't live such a well-off life as now and we wouldn't expect our children to go to university, either."
The government's family planning policy also stresses pre-natal and post-natal care and aims at improving health of mothers and children of farmers and herdsmen's families, Purbu Zhoi'ma said.
According to a report released by the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Statistics early this month, the death rate for pregnant women has decreased from 5 percent in 1959 to the current 0.399 percent, while the infant mortality rate is down from 45 percent to 0.31 percent.
Tibet's population stood at 2.84 million at the end of last year, compared with 1.14 million in 1951. More than 92 percent of Tibet's population are Tibetans.
The life expectancy of Tibetans has reached 67 years, almost double the figure in the 1950s, the report says.