About one in 20 newborns have problems - double the figure in many countries While Beijing has succeeded in its drive to lower the population growth rate, the mainland's high percentage of birth defects - twice as high as many countries - continues to cause alarm, a senior official says. In an address to the International Forum on Population and Development in Wuhan yesterday, Wang Guoqiang , vice-minister of the State Population and Family Planning Commission, also highlighted the sexual imbalance, the ageing population and the rapid spread of Aids as problems troubling the government. Among newborns on the mainland, 4 to 6 per cent have birth defects, double the figure of 2 to 3 per cent in many countries, according to an official. The country's population of people with disabilities is estimated at 60 million. Wang Zhiyong , a vice-director of the Ministry of Health, estimated that 195,000 children were born with birth defects on the mainland every year. Last year, about 1.39 million children were living with birth defects. The commission said in a country report prepared for the conference that there were many factors at play. 'There are multiple causes of birth defects, including poor nutritional practices, environmental factors, and poor antenatal and delivery care. 'Reducing the rate [of birth defects] is one of the challenges of a reproductive health [policy],' the report says. Zhang Kaining , director of Kunming Medical College's institute for health sciences, said the actual rate could be higher, as only defects identified by simple inspections were included in the statistics. Wang Guoqiang said there was no room for complacency even though China has reduced its annual birth rate - from 2.1 to 1.24 newborns for every 100 people between 1990 and last year. The population is still expected to grow by 8 million to 10 million people per year over the next 20 years. Wang Zhiyong said the central government had tried to raise public awareness about birth defects through a recent education campaign. 'Some cases can be blamed on genetics, but some cases are avoidable,' he said. In his comments on Aids, Wang Guoqiang said: 'There are 840,000 HIV/Aids carriers, and this will eventually become a new population problem if no effective measures are taken.' Zhai Zhenwu, director of Tsinghua University's centre of population and development studies, agreed with Wang Guoqiang that the gender imbalance was a serious problem. The gap between the number of men and women is increasing by more than 1 million every year, he said. The gender imbalance could become a social problem as more men in poor regions are forced to live as bachelors. The central government is working to reduce the sex ratio from the current level of 100 females to 118 males to 100 females to 110 males, by next year, he said.