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February 26, 2014

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Shanghai approves 1-child policy change

Shanghai lawmakers approved an amended family planning policy yesterday to allow couples to have a second baby if either is an only child.

The measure takes effect from Saturday.

Second children born to eligible couples from Saturday will be legal under the amended policy, said Zhang Meixing of the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission.

About 20,000 to 30,000 more babies are expected to be born each year as a result, but the city has been ensuring that maternity services, health care and education resources are fully prepared, officials said.

The city is facing a seriously unbalanced population structure with too few children and a growing number of elderly people, they added.

At present, children under 14 years old account for just 8.8 percent of the registered population, while 25.7 percent are over 60.

In recognition of that fact, Shanghai hasn’t set the requirements for a second child imposed in Beijing and Tianjin, where mothers have to be at least 28 before having a second baby or the first child has to be at least four years old before the second is born.

Shanghai women are just over 27, on average, when they get married and have their first child when they are almost 29, Zhang said. “The interval between two children for couples with both spouses from a one-child family is 3.8 years. So there is no need to set such a hurdle.”

The desire to have a second child among local couples was also not strong.

Between 2008 and 2012, only 42 percent of couples eligible under the old policy expressed a desire to have a second child and only 10 percent of those couples actually applied.

And of the 15,000 couples who did apply, only around 7,000 went on to have a second child.

Huang Hong, the commission’s vice director, said: “There are 3,600 maternity beds in the city, which sees about 200,000 newborn babies a year. The extra 20,000 to 30,000 babies won’t impose too much pressure on local hospitals.”

Dr Cheng Haidong, of the Shanghai Gynecology and Obstetrics Hospital of Fudan University, said it was important that eligible couples had a comprehensive checkup in hospital before pregnancy as many would be in their 30s and 40s.

“The older the age of the woman, the higher the chance of children’s congenital deformity,” Cheng said.

“Pregnant women of an older age should be screened for Down Syndrome before 12 weeks of pregnancy.”


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