Fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy en­ters new era

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA

East China’s An­hui be­came the third prov­ince to re­lax the one-child pol­icy on Thurs­day, al­low­ing cou­ples to have a se­cond baby if ei­ther par­ent is an only child.

About one week ear­lier, Zhe­jiang prov­ince was the first in the coun­try to re­lax fam­ily plan­ning rules. Jiangxi prov­ince fol­lowed on Jan18.

“The pol­icy change comes just in time,” said Shen Xian, a 35-year-old from Jiangxi.

“My hus­band is from a onechild fam­ily and I don’t want my son to be a lonely only child,” said Shen, who was brought up with the tra­di­tional Chi­nese be­lief that hap­pi­ness lies in hav­ing many chil­dren.

Shen was banned from hav­ing a se­cond child un­der the pre­vi­ous pol­icy.

The re­lax­ation is a sig­nif­i­cant change and is part of a plan to raise fer­til­ity rates and ease the fi­nan­cial bur­den on China’s rapidly ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Pro­vin­cial-level gov­ern­ments in Bei­jing, Guangxi, Hubei and Jiangsu have an­nounced in­ten­tions to re­lax the pol­icy in March. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing Hu­nan, Qing­hai and Shang­hai, promised changes in the first half of this year.

Fol­low­ing the rapid eco­nomic growth in the past decade, China’s pop­u­la­tion ad­van­tage

The pol­icy change comes just in time. My hus­band is from a one-child fam­ily and I don’t want my son to be a lonely only child.” SHEN XIAN A 35-YEAR-OLD FROM JIANGXI

has shrunk. It has be­come an ag­ing so­ci­ety with few young work­ing peo­ple sup­port­ing par­ents and grand­par­ents. For years, ex­perts from many walks of life have been call­ing for the re­lax­ation of the pol­icy.

China’s fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, put in place in the late 1970s, is widely be­lieved to have contributed to the coun­try’s ris­ing pros­per­ity.

It is es­ti­mated that the pol­icy has so far pre­vented around 400 mil­lion births.

Some also ar­gue that the pol­icy has contributed to a gender im­bal­ance in China, where sexspe­cific abor­tions re­main com­mon in a cul­ture that prefers boys over girls.

The gender ra­tio at birth was 117.6 boys to 100 girls last year. A ra­tio be­tween 100 and 107 is con­sid­ered nor­mal.

In De­cem­ber, the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the top leg­is­la­ture, ap­proved the re­lax­ation of the pol­icy, but it was left up to the prov­inces to make their own calls on im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The av­er­age fer­til­ity rate stands at 1.5 births per woman in China and is not enough to off­set ag­ing. Pop­u­la­tions shrink when the fer­til­ity rate is lower than 2.1, ex­perts say.

In He­nan and Guang­dong prov­inces, each with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 100 mil­lion, lo­cal gov­ern­ments have taken a more pru­dent ap­proach with no timetable for im­ple­men­ta­tion.

For a rel­a­tively un­der­de­vel­oped prov­ince with a large pop­u­la­tion, changes should be made cau­tiously and only af­ter thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion and cal­cu­la­tion, said Wang Jiey­ing, spokesper­son for the He­nan pro­vin­cial health and fam­ily plan­ning com­mis­sion.

“We have to take full ac­count of pop­u­la­tion trends and ex­tra pres­sure on pub­lic re­sources, in­clud­ing food, health, ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment.”

There would be 50,000 to 80,000 more ba­bies ev­ery year in He­nan if the new regime took effect, ac­cord­ing to an ini­tial cal­cu­la­tion by the com­mis­sion.

Re­lax­ation is likely to bring a mini baby boom in the prov­ince, but the com­mis­sion be­lieves its im­pact will be man­age­able.

Guang­dong has sent a re­port to the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. If the re­port is ap­proved, a pol­icy ad­just­ment will be made.

“We are ac­tively seek­ing early ap­proval from the cen­tral govern­ment and will make the changes as soon as pos­si­ble,” said Chen Yuan­sheng, head of the Guang­dong health and fam­ily plan­ning com­mis­sion.

“The effect on ed­u­ca­tion, health and em­ploy­ment will be min­i­mal,” Chen said. Guang­dong is the most de­vel­oped prov­ince in China with a GDP of more than $1 tril­lion.

Many Chi­nese women have ex­pressed limited in­ter­est in hav­ing se­cond chil­dren, so these changes will not lead to un­ex­pected pop­u­la­tion growth and se­ri­ous so­cial prob­lems, said Zhang Chewei, deputy head of the Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor Eco­nom­ics Re­search In­sti­tute with the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

The ris­ing cost of liv­ing and hous­ing prices in cities, and chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion ex­penses, have forced many young par­ents to give up the idea of a se­cond child. China’s fer­til­ity rate fell from 3.34 in 1970 to 1.21 in 2012. Pop­u­la­tion growth dropped from 2.58 per­cent to 0.495 per­cent over the same pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to health au­thor­i­ties.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.