China will not change its one-child-only family policy, a state official said recently, despite recent speculation and recommendations that the state move towards a looser policy.

"The policy should be a long-term one, and its primary goal is to keep a low birthrate," said Wang Xia, minister in charge of the country's National Population and Family Planning Commission.

The statement came as a surprise, especially after a Chinese government think tank recommended the policy end by 2015.

Enacted in 1978, China's one-child policy is designed to prevent overpopulation. It allows urban Chinese couples one child only, with exceptions in case of twins and couples who are both only children themselves. Rural couples and ethnic minorities are an exception. Parts of the country also allow for another child if the first one is a girl.

Critics say the policy creates an unbalanced population, both in age and in gender. Economists fear that at sub-replacement population levels, the smaller workforce will not be able to sustain an aging population. Last year, China's workforce dropped by 3 million.

Human rights advocates cite cases of forced abortions as proof of the policy's cruelty. And although sex-selective abortion is technically illegal in China, preference for sons — who can support parents in their old age — has created an extra 41 million boys thus far.

Although the one-child policy remains unchanged, Wang also said that efforts should be made to rectify the gender ratio imbalance, which is as high as 120 boys born for every 100 girls.