• U.S.

China: Stretching Output

1 minute read

At a Beijing cotton mill, workers have a problem: the factory quota of 10 free condoms a month — for married employees only — is not sufficient for their bedtime needs. In fact, the world’s most populous society is facing a crisis of condoms. China’s 7 million users, more than double the number of eight years ago, say there are just not enough prophylactics to go around.

China’s huge crop of baby boomers, born in the 1960s when Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution crippled the nation’s embryonic birth-control program, have reached childbearing age. They have also developed looser sexual habits: premarital and extramarital sex is rising rapidly.

To meet the need for condoms, population bureaucrats are pressing the nation’s latex industry to stretch output quickly by 100 million, to a peak of 1.5 billion a year. Check off one more victory for the forces of supply and demand over central planning.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com