Abolishing the decadeslong one-child policy
In a bid to address the issues posed by a fast-aging population, the Chinese government decided in October to adopt a universal two-child policy, which takes effect on Jan 1, 2016.
This new policy replaces the decades-long one which stipulated that a couple could only have one child and is expected to add between 10,000 and 20,000 new births to the city, said Zhou Haiwang, deputy director of the Institute of Urban and Population Development Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
The Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning estimates that the population of newborns in the city will hit 230,000 each year in the coming two years. Experts say that the higher birthrate will be crucial to mitigating the effects of societal issues caused by an aging population, such as the need for more medical resources to care for the elderly and a shortage of manpower in the workforce.
According to the 2014 Shanghai Statistical Yearbook, minors below the age of 17 form only 10 percent of the total household population, while those aged 60 and above account for about 30 percent.
“The speed of aging will accelerate and the elderly population will rise from the current 4 million to 5 million by 2018, and the proportion of seniors above age 80 will grow even larger,” said Yin Zhigang, director of Shanghai Research Center on Aging.
Hospitals are already making preparations to handle the increase in maternity cases. The Changning Maternity and Child Health Hospital is currently planning to open an outpatient clinic that will provide consultation and risk evaluation for women who are preparing to have their second child.
Xu Yuan, who has worked as a maternity matron in the city for 11 years, said the number of people in her profession, as well as workers in postnatal care centers, will see a boom in the coming years.
“Many care-givers and maids have already identified this business opportunity and have swarmed into the industry,” said Xu.
A survey conducted by the Shanghai Women’s Federation and Fudan University polled women in the fertile age bracket in Shanghai’s five districts and found that only 15 percent of them intended to have a second child if possible.
“The percentage of couples ready to have a second child may be insignificant but people will change their minds when more incentives are unveiled to help families with the upbringing of the children,” said Zhou.
The two-child policy takes effect in China on Jan 1, 2016, which is intended to balance population development.