The story appears on

Page A2

November 17, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Public Services

City couples facing wait of up to one year for relaxation of 1-child policy

Shanghai’s family planning authority said yesterday that it may take six months to a year to introduce the nation’s newly relaxed family planning policy, as China gives local governments some leeway as to when to bring it in.

The relaxed single-child policy, one of the highlights in a sweeping package of reforms announced on Friday following the Party’s key meeting earlier in the week, allows couples where one parent is an only child to have two children. Currently, both the parents must come from one-child families to qualify in most parts of China.

Lawmaking procedures must take place before the rule can be introduced, while public facilities — such as beds at maternity hospitals and social security services like birth insurance funds — have to be updated, the city’s health and population commission said. A change in the law would affect about 400,000 couples in Shanghai.

But couples planning a second child under changes to the one-child policy face fines if they don’t wait until new legislation is introduced, a commission  official said.

An amendment to the city’s population rules first needs to be passed by the Shanghai People’s Congress, the legislature.

“Before the new policy is legally passed, having a second baby if not meeting current regulations is still illegal and will result in a fine,” said Zhang Meixing, an official with the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission.

There is no unified timetable nationwide to start the new policy, as regions will implement it based on their local situations. However, the central government doesn’t want big variations in timing for bringing in the new policy across the country.

The announcement caused major discussion among media and the public, especially couples who are affected by the new policy weighing up the pros and cons.

Local resident Lin Yin, aged 32, who is mother to a five-year-old daughter, said she had longed for the policy for a long time.

“I have a brother and it is great to grow up with a sibling,” she said. “I have been following news reports and information online about such a policy for a long time. Now it’s finally come true.”

Meanwhile, Xue Rong, a bank worker and mother of a five-year-old boy, said she may try for a second child next year.

“I am already 35 years old, so I can’t wait too long,” she said.

However, Xue said a second child would bring a heavy financial burden and entail career and lifestyle sacrifices.

“The high cost of raising a second child and competition in the workplace — especially in cities like Shanghai — may make couples think twice,” she said.

“Parents, especially the mother, must give up a lot with regards to their career and interests if they have two children.”

Many Shanghai residents shared Xue’s sentiments.

Lu Chunlu, a 35-year-old media worker in Shanghai, said she doesn’t plan to have a second child, even though she could.

“The energy, financial burden and time that an extra child requires would be more than I can stand,” she said.

According to the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission, the city has around 2 million couples where both spouses are from a one-child family. But only around 13,000 couples applied to have a second child in the past five years and some 7,000 of them actually went ahead with the plan.

“It is too costly and tiring to raise a child in Shanghai,” said Jiang Xiaobai, a mother of a three-year-old son. “I accompany my son learning the piano and it almost kills me!”

While Jiang and her husband are both from one-child families, they have decided to limit themselves to raising one child.

Yang Jing, a mother of two children, said the happiness that they have brought exceeds the cost. However she admits that it’s easier for some couples than others.

“Suitable families for having two children are those with a good income, a wife who doesn’t work, and having grandparents or an ayi to help out.

“If both spouses are ordinary office workers, it’s difficult for them to have two children in Shanghai,” Yang said.

While couples weigh up whether to plan for a second child, experts say whatever they choose it won’t have much effect on China’s demographic timebomb.

China’s fertility rate — the number of children a woman has in her lifetime — currently stands at 1.5 to 1.6, far below the 2.1 needed to keep a population stable.

Experts estimate the new policy will only affect about 15 to 20 million Chinese parents, and younger Chinese couples are opting for smaller families.

“A baby boom can be safely ruled out,” Wang Feng, professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine told The Associated Press.

“Young people’s reproductive desires have changed,” she said

Wang Guixin, a population expert from Fudan University, said the new policy is not brave enough to tackle the problem of China’s aging population.

“Allowing all couples to have a second child may have more meaning to improve the population structure,” he said.

Wang Pei’an, deputy director of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the number of couples covered by the new policy is not very large across the country.

“China’s population will not grow substantially in the short term,” he added.

Food security and basic public resource planning is based on the estimated population of 2020 and the peak population in 2033 — 1.43 billion and 1.5 billion respectively, Wang Pei’an told the Xinhua news agency.

“Although the number of babies will increase in the next few years, it will be equivalent to that around 2000, so it is safe to say that new birth policy will not be a problem,” said Wang Pei’an.

China introduced the one-child policy in the late 1970s to rein in population growth, and the birth rate dropped from 33.4 per thousand in 1970 to 12.1 per thousand in 2012.

Wang Pei’an said it is not possible to allow all couples to have two children at the present time, as it would lead to high volatility of the infant population, putting too much pressure on public services, and in the long term have a negative impact on China’s economic and social development.

The adjustment of birth policy does not ease family planning work, said Wang Pei’an.

Currently, as well as couples both from one-child families, couples whose first child has a non-inherited disability can have another child. In some rural areas, couples can have a second child if the first is a girl.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend