Legislator urges caution as regulation expected to be eased nationwide in 2014
Lawmakers highlight the importance of continuing family planning when discussing a bill on easing the one-child policy.
Lawmakers stressed the importance of continuing to observe family planning practices on Tuesday during discussions on a bill that would ease the one-child policy.
Members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress held panel discussions on a bill that will ease China’s decadeslong one-child policy and allow couples to have two children if either parent is an only child.
The bill was submitted by the State Council to the legislature’s bi-monthly session on Monday. The NPC is expected to approve it when its session ends on Saturday.
Yang Wenzhuang, a National Health and Family Planning Commission official, said the policy change is expected to take effect in some areas of China in the first quarter of 2014.
Authorities were in the process of calculating the number of eligible couples, Yang said.
Chi Wanchun, an NPC Standing Committee member, said at the panel discussion that easing the one-child policy does not mean China will abandon family planning.
“Rather, it is also a measure for family planning,” Chi said.
It is right to adjust the family planning policy as circumstances change, but it is equally important to strictly implement family planning policies so as to ensure sustainable population growth, Chi said.
“China still has a large population. This has not changed. Many of our economic and social problems are rooted in this reality,” said Jiang Fan, an NPC deputy and member of the NPC Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “We cannot risk letting the population
China still has a large population. This has not changed. Many of our economic and social problems are rooted in this reality. We cannot risk letting the population grow out of control.” JIANG FAN NPC DEPUTY
grow out of control.”
China, with nearly 1.4 billion people, is the world’s most populous country. The government says the policy of limiting families to one child, which covers 63 percent of the population, has averted 400 million births since 1980.
Currently, the policy permits couples to have two children if both parents are the only children in their families. In most rural areas, families can apply to have a second child if their first-born is a daughter. These are two of several exceptions to the rule.
While they said family planning is an essential State strategy, lawmakers agreed with the State Council that the policy should be adjusted as the national birth rate steadily declines and demographics change.
When briefing lawmakers about the bill on Monday, Li Bin, minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, warned that if the current family planning policy persists, the birth rate will continue to fall and lead to a sharp drop in the total population after reaching a peak.
The bill was designed with the calculation that births will rise but not at a dramatic pace.
Sun Bin, an NPC deputy and farmer from Heilongjiang province, agreed with the State Council’s assessment.
“Even in my village, people have changed their ideas about parenting. Many prefer having fewer children and giving them better lives and educations. I don’t think there will be a very fast increase,” Sun said.
But he said rural communities have felt the pressure of aging.
“Parents want their only child to go to cities and so do youths themselves. Now only the middle-aged and elderly stay home to farm,” he said. “They are not well educated or skillful with modern agriculture.”
If a family has more than one child, one of them might stay at home, he said.
In the bill, the State Council suggested that provincial congresses and their standing committees amend local family planning regulations after evaluating local demographics.
“We should tread carefully. Every province should not rush to adopt the new policy if their conditions are not ready, nor should they intentionally delay it,” Jiang Fan said.