2-child rule re­view

The na­tion’s two-child pol­icy could be re­laxed more to face chal­lenges posed by a dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion, such as a smaller la­bor force, ex­perts said.

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG XIAODONG wangx­i­aodong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The uni­ver­sal two-child pol­icy “should not be the end of the fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy ad­just­ment”, and fur­ther re­lax­ation is ex­pected to ease the pop­u­la­tion chal­lenges China is fac­ing, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

“A dwin­dling work­force pop­u­la­tion and an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion are in­evitable in China, and a fur­ther ad­just­ment of the fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy is needed, based on con­sis­tent mon­i­tor­ing of births,” ac­cord­ing to the Green Book of Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor 2016, which was re­leased by the Pop­u­la­tion and La­bor Eco­nomics In­sti­tute of the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences on Wed­nes­day.

The lat­est fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy, which al­lows all cou­ples to have two chil­dren, will not re­sult in a big pop­u­la­tion in­crease, due to rea­sons such as a re­duced will­ing­ness to give birth and the in­creased ages of el­i­gi­ble women, said Zhang Chewei, direc­tor of the in­sti­tute and an au­thor of the book.

As a re­sult, the uni­ver­sal two-child pol­icy will not ef­fec­tively ease the so­cial and eco­nomic chal­lenges China is fac­ing, such as a re­duced work­force and a pop­u­la­tion that is rapidly ag­ing, he said.

“Judg­ing from the ex­pe­ri­ences of some other coun­tries, with peo­ple con­tin­u­ously de­lay­ing mar­riage and preg­nancy, it is pos­si­ble that Chi­nese peo­ple’s will­ing­ness to give birth will con­tinue to de­crease,” Zhang said. “China may need to fur­ther re­lax its fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy in the fu­ture, and it may even abol­ish re­stric­tions on birth.”

In re­cent years, China has been re­lax­ing its fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy — which used to al­low most cou­ples in ur­ban ar­eas to have only one child — amid a re­duced fer­til­ity rate and chal­lenges such as an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Since early 2014, cou­ples where one part­ner is an only child have been al­lowed to have a se­cond child in most ar­eas of China. Of 11 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble cou­ples, only 1.45 mil­lion ap­plied to have a se­cond child by the end of May last year, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Bei­jing News.

At the be­gin­ning of this year, all cou­ples were al­lowed to have a se­cond child.

The num­ber of peo­ple over 60 years old in China reached 222 mil­lion last year, ac­count­ing for more than 16 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. That per­cent­age is ex­pected to ex­ceed 30 per­cent by 2050, ac­cord­ing to some pop­u­la­tion ex­perts.

China’s work­force pop­u­la­tion, or those be­tween 16 and 60 years old, has been de­clin­ing since 2012, which may neg­a­tively im­pact the econ­omy.

“It is an ir­re­versible trend, and the work­force pop­u­la­tion will con­tinue to de­crease even if the fam­ily-plan­ning pol­icy is to­tally abol­ished,” said Lai Desh­eng, a pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics at Bei­jing Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity.

Yuan Xin, a pro­fes­sor in pop­u­la­tion stud­ies at Nankai Uni­ver­sity in Tian­jin, said that al­though prob­lems such as pop­u­la­tion ag­ing and a dwin­dling work­force pop­u­la­tion are in­evitable, more re­search and eval­u­a­tion should be made be­fore ad­just­ing the cur­rent fam­i­ly­plan­ning pol­icy.

“The uni­ver­sal two-child pol­icy will not have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on China’s pop­u­la­tion growth in the short or even medium term, due to gen­er­a­tional gaps in birth,” he said. “But with sev­eral gen­er­a­tions hav­ing two chil­dren, the pol­icy will con­trib­ute greatly to pop­u­la­tion growth by the end of the cen­tury.”

The Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, China’s top health au­thor­ity, will mon­i­tor pop­u­la­tion changes for pos­si­ble pol­icy ad­just­ment, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment pro­vided to China Daily by the com­mis­sion in Oc­to­ber.

China’s large pop­u­la­tion will con­tinue to be a bur­den on eco­nomic and so­cial development un­til the mid­dle of the cen­tury, so the fer­til­ity rate in China should be con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tored, the com­mis­sion said.

Work­force pop­u­la­tion

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