No timetable for fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy changes

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By SHAN JUAN and ZHAO HUANXIN

China has no timetable for cre­at­ing a com­pre­hen­sive two-child pol­icy and will stick with the cur­rent pol­icy for the fore­see­able fu­ture, the head of the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion said.

Li Bin made the re­mark at a news con­fer­ence on Thurs­day on the side­lines of the an­nual ses­sion of the Na­tional People’s Congress.

Li’s com­ment was her first of­fi­cial state­ment on the is­sue since China re­laxed its four­decade-old one-child pol­icy in Novem­ber. The re­vised pol­icy al­lows cou­ples to have a sec­ond child if one spouse is an only child. Pre­vi­ously, both spouses had to be an only child.

Li said that eight prov­inces so far have im­ple­mented the new pol­icy.

Since the pol­icy change, many have an­tic­i­pated a com­pre­hen­sive two-child pol­icy.

Given that China has a huge pop­u­la­tion al­ready and is charged with de­vel­op­ment tasks, “no timetable for that (pol­icy change) has been made yet”, Li said.

How­ever, she added, “We’ll closely look at all the de­mo­graphic dy­nam­ics of the na­tion and con­stantly fine­tune the re­pro­duc­tion pol­icy ac­cord­ing to new sit­u­a­tions and chal­lenges.

“China will stick to the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy as a ba­sic na­tional pol­icy”, which is also nec­es­sary for bal­anced and healthy pop­u­la­tion de­vel­op­ment over the long term, Li said.

To fa­cil­i­tate the re­vised pol­icy, Li urged the coun­try’s ma­ter­nity health providers to pre­pare to pro­vide qual­ity ser­vices for the newly el­i­gi­ble cou­ples.

“We have to en­sure that people in­deed ben­e­fit from the pol­icy,” she said.

She re­ferred to China’s pop­u­la­tion chal­lenges, in­clud­ing a rapidly ag­ing so­ci­ety and main­tain­ing a sus­tain­able la­bor sup­ply, as rea­sons that the coun­try re­laxed the onechild rule.

China is ex­pected to wel­come 1 mil­lion additional ba­bies per year be­cause of the pol­icy re­vi­sion, pre­vi­ous govern­ment es­ti­mates showed.

The num­ber of additional births will not ex­ceed 2 mil­lion, said Cai Fang, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor Eco­nom­ics of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, also a leg­is­la­tor.

Cai said he be­lieves the con­di­tional two-child pol­icy

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is only a makeshift one to avert a po­ten­tial flood of new­borns, which would place a huge bur­den on so­ci­ety in terms of health­care, ed­u­ca­tion, and em­ploy­ment.

“If ev­ery­thing pro­ceeds smoothly, I think China will soon have a com­pre­hen­sive two-child pol­icy,” he said.

Some pop­u­la­tion ex­perts es­ti­mated such a pol­icy is two or three years down the road. But Cai said people might not have to wait that long.

An­other leg­is­la­tor, Ma Xu, who heads the In­sti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy un­der the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, urged the govern­ment to start re­search­ing a com­pre­hen­sive two-child pol­icy at once in a pre-emp­tive ef­fort to ad­dress the chal­lenges of pop­u­la­tion de­vel­op­ment.

Ma said people 60 and older ac­count for 14 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, and that fig­ure is ex­pected to be 32 per­cent in 20 years.

Cur­rent re­pro­duc­tion pol­icy could only man­age to re­duce the ag­ing rate by 2 or 3 per­cent­age points, “which could hardly re­verse the ag­ing trend fac­ing China”, he said.

The law­maker also called for at­ten­tion to a spe­cial group of women who choose to abort.

“Ac­cord­ing to some re­search, each year there are 30 mil­lion Chi­nese women choose abor­tion at last,” Ma said.

About half of them had never given birth be­fore, and nearly 10 mil­lion of them are un­mar­ried, Ma quoted the re­search.

Ma did not spec­ify the source of the re­search. But a re­port from Xin­hua News Agency last July put the num­ber of Chi­nese women choos­ing to abort at 13 mil­lion a year, cit­ing “in­com­plete sta­tis­tics” from the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion.

“The prob­lem is, even if one day the pol­icy of ‘two chil­dren for one fam­ily’ is in place, I doubt if these women will ever want to, or be able to give birth,” the leg­is­la­tor said. Con­tact the writer at shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn Zhao Shengnan con­trib­uted to this story.

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