Two-child pol­icy fun­da­men­tal to pop­u­la­tion se­cu­rity

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

While 39 schol­ars jointly called for a com­pre­hen­sive twochild pol­icy, the fam­ily plan­ning au­thor­i­ties’ think tank has ruled out any pol­icy loos­en­ing this year. How­ever, it is high time China re­flected on the out­comes from its fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy in the past decades and ac­cel­er­ated its re­form.

There are about 180 mil­lion one-child fam­i­lies in China and they face high risks. The num­ber of fam­i­lies that will lose their only child is ex­pected to ex­ceed 10 mil­lion in fu­ture. A more fam­ily friendly pop­u­la­tion pol­icy al­low­ing more cou­ples to have a sec­ond child would re­duce the num­ber of such tragedies.

Also the one-child fam­ily struc­ture and re­la­tion­ships are un­healthy and have pro­duced many so­cial prob­lems. For in­stance, a huge num­ber of “empty nest” el­derly face nu­mer­ous chal­lenges from the lack of sup­port in their old age.

It’s of great sig­nif­i­cance that Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of healthy fam­i­lies in his Lu­nar NewYear greet­ings.

Many low-in­come fam­i­lies have suf­fered for a long time from the poverty re­sult­ing from the huge fines and so­cial main­te­nance fees col­lected be­cause they have vi­o­lated the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy.

And, of course, it is fun­da­men­tally un­fair to al­low some fam­i­lies to have a sec­ond child while not per­mit­ting oth­ers.

More­over, the long-term low fer­til­ity rate has led to an un­sus­tain­able pop­u­la­tion struc­ture. Since 2012, the work­ing age pop­u­la­tion has be­gun to decline. The loss of the work­ing age pop­u­la­tion is about 2 to 3 mil­lion ev­ery year, which im­poses rigid re­stric­tions on sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth. Also, there is a gen­der im­bal­ance in fa­vor of males, which may threaten so­cial sta­bil­ity.

More se­ri­ously, China has al­ready formed low fer­til­ity cul­ture, and many young cou­ples al­lowed a sec­ond child un­der the re­cent re­form grant­ing the right to cou­ples where one of them is a sin­gle child have cho­sen not to have one be­cause of the costs in­volved. Since 2000, China has fallen into the trap of “ul­tra low fer­til­ity” be­cause of both its fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy and low fer­til­ity cul­ture. In fact, the over­all fer­til­ity rate is lower than 1.3, and China will face a la­bor short­age if this rate can’t be in­creased. China needs to worry about its low fer­til­ity rate rather than a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion, be­cause a coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion is a key part of its na­tional strength. Pop­u­la­tion se­cu­rity should be the start­ing point for China’s pop­u­la­tion pol­icy. The au­thor­i­ties should guar­an­tee a strate­gic re­serve of young peo­ple, la­bor and tal­ents.

To re­duce the cost of rais­ing a child, which would en­cour­age more cou­ples to have a sec­ond child, the gov­ern­ment should pro­vide pol­icy sup­port such as paid ma­ter­nity leave and low-cost med­i­cal treat­ment. Public fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices should also be im­proved in or­der to cre­ate an at­trac­tive so­cial en­vi­ron­ment for a two-child pol­icy. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Pop­u­la­tion Re­search In­sti­tute of Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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