Easing of Population Policy not to Lead to a Surge in Births' - The New Indian Express

Easing of Population Policy not to Lead to a Surge in Births'

Published: 29th December 2013 07:47 PM

Last Updated: 29th December 2013 07:47 PM

China, the world's most populous country, is not expecting a surge in population growth due to a major change in its controversial 'one-child' family planning policy aimed at addressing serious demographic challenges, the state media reported.      

China's top legislature yesterday approved the government's proposal to allow couples to have two children if either parent is an only child, a move considered the most significant liberalisation of China's strict one-child policy in nearly three decades.     

"The State Council (China's cabinet) expects the policy change to cause only a slight increase in births," Xinhua news agency reported.      

"It is the right time to do it as the low birth rate is stable, the working population is still large and the burden to support the elderly is relatively light," Li Bin, minister in charge of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, had said last week.      

To adapt to the new circumstances and meet people's expectations, China, which has a population of over 1.3 billion, has to adjust its family planning policies, Li had said.    

China's family planning policy was first introduced in the late 1970s to rein in population increase by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two, if the first child was a girl.     

The government estimates that since the introduction of the rules in the 1970s, the one-child policy has prevented some 400 million births.     

China's ruling Communist Party had announced last month that it would take steps to loosen its one-child-policy, which has been in place since 1979.     

The bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) passed a resolution yesterday on family planning, allowing provincial congresses to make their own calls on implementation based on evaluation of local demographic situation.      

The changes were made against a backdrop of steadily declining birth rates and changing demographics, reducing the working population in China.

The birth rate is relatively low and was showing signs of falling further. The rate has dropped to between 1.5 and 1.6 since the 1990s, which means each Chinese woman of child- bearing age gives birth to 1.5 to 1.6 children, on average. China's working population began to drop in 2012 by 3.45 million annually, and it is likely to fall by 8 million each year after 2023, while the population aged 60 and above will reach 400 million and account for quarter of the population by the early 2030s, up from one seventh now.      

However, thousands of families have lost their only child. Children may be born with congenital problems or has become disabled through illness or accident. These events are not just family tragedies but serious social problems.      

Couples, both without siblings, also worry about financial and technical plights when they have to support four aged parents on their own.      

Briefing lawmakers, Li had warned that if the policy persisted, the birth rate would continue to fall, leading to a sharp drop in population after reaching a peak.      

There have always been several exceptions to the rules. A couple could have two children if neither parent had siblings or if either comes from an ethnic minority. Rural couples could apply to have a second child if their first was a daughter.      

In debating the new policy, lawmakers emphasised the importance of continuing family planning.     

"Easing the one-child policy does not mean an end to family planning," said NPC Standing Committee member Chi Wanchun during the panel discussion.     

While it is right to adjust policy to new circumstances, it is equally important 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 the population growing out of control."      

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the new policy is expected to go into force in some provincial regions in the first quarter of 2014.   

From Around the Web