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Home >> China
UPDATED: 16:59, July 16, 2004
China: Diversified policies to address demographic issues
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On July 15, at a press conference by the Information Office of the State Council, Zhao Baige, Deputy Director-general of the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, briefed on China's policies and progress on population and family planning.

Commitment and progress
179 countries agreed upon the Program of Action at United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. In 2000, 189 heads of nations from around the world vowed to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals. China has signed both of the two documents. Since then, China has made the following eight "positive progresses" to honor its commitment to the two initiatives, Zhao recalled.

--- Human rights. China has enshrined the respect and protection of human rights into the revision of its constitution and pays special attention to safeguard the rights of children and women through signing an array of major international pacts and domestic legislation.

--- Innovation on systems. China has achieved breakthroughs on the systems of family planning and social insurance.

--- Strategic researches. The research is launched to lay a foundation for formulating the strategy of building a comprehensive well-off society.

--- Social insurance in rural areas. Pilot projects to help rural families have less children and pocket more money are underway.

--- Structural and security issues. China is well aware of the pressing problems of the aging society, AIDS/HIV and unbalanced gender ratio.

--- Quality services. A campaign to put a "people first" regime " in place has covered 827 counties and cities, or about one-third of the total, around the nation.

--- Partnership with non-governmental organizations. Coalition with non-governmental researches and enterprises has resulted in synergy.

--- International cooperation. Projects of demography and procreation have been jointed sponsored by Chinese and international organizations including United Nations, WHO, Ford Foundation, International Planned Parenthood Federation, and Japan International Cooperation Agency. China has also made great contributions to push the South-South Cooperation forward.

Zhao declared that an international forum on population and development has been scheduled to be held in Wuhan from September 7 to 9 this year. The high-profile event, with about 400 guests from government agencies in charge of population affairs, international organizations, non-governmental institutions and donation sources will take a stock of the past decade on implementation of the Program of Action of UN International Conference on Population and the Millennium Development Goals and exchange ideas on a vision of these commitments. Yangtze River Declaration will be issued at the forum.

It is co-sponsored by the South-South Partnership for Population and Development, two commissions for population and foreign affairs under CPPCC (China's political advisory body), and National Population and Family Planning Commission of China.

China is the most populous country in the world and the fastest-growing developing nation. In this sense, the fact that China is the venue of the conference is of significance as it shows Chinese government's commitment to the UN Program Action and Millennium Development Goals. Zhao said.

Diversified Family Planning Policy
Zhao clarified the fact that the Family Planning Policy adopted by China since early 1980s is a diversified mechanism instead of a so-called "one child" policy. Actually, the birth rate now is 1.8 in China which means there are more than one child in a family in most areas. For example, there is generally only one child in a family in urban areas, but two in rural areas or even three in ethnic minority areas. In Tibet, there is no restriction on the number of children a family can have.

The diversified policy, Zhao stressed, is based on the consideration of the economic situation of certain areas and groups.

In rural areas, families may face hard time if a very strict "one child" police is imposed on them as they are not covered by enough social insurance protection. Zhao acknowledged that it would be a long-term task to improve the education and health of rural population.

A pilot program for some family planning households have been launched around the country. It is specially designed for "some", not all, rural families. A couple with only one child, or two daughters, or a disabled child (children) after birth and no other healthy child, can get an annual subsidy of 1200 yuan, or 600 yuan for husband and wife respectively. This is a large sum to a rural family. This amount, 600 for one person as husband or wife, is the bottom line set by the central government and it can be varied in different areas as long as it is no less than the bottom line.

This is to offer an effective compensation to families which have carried out the Family Planning policy on one hand and to serve as a pilot for building the social insurance system in rural areas on the other. It is expected to cover the whole rural areas around the country in 2005.

China's west is heavily populated with ethnic minority groups and people in poverty there do not have easy access to quality service. Given this, a project encouraging getting more money through less fertility has been launched in those areas. Various policies are adopted and the whole society, including the religious force, is mobilized to help get the ethnic minority groups and rural families motivated to participate into the project. Specific incentives are available. For example, economic compensation or subsidies will be given to families which give birth to two children but could have had three under the policy or which have one child but could have had two.

The purpose of the project is to encourage couples in these areas to have fewer children so that economy will be developed faster. Qinghai and Ningxia are the sites for this pilot program now. It is expected to be extended to the whole country next year.

Facing the aging society
The aging society is a global issue, said Zhao. He quoted data to prove this. 21 percent of the world population will be old people above 60 in 2050. Now It is 10 percent. In China, the fifth census in 2000 showed that the population above 65 years old reached 88.3 million, or 7 percent.

The Chinese government is considering to focus efforts on establishment of an effective social insurance system, especially in the rural areas, more care to the aged both physically and psychologically, and prompt solution to any problems brought about by the aging society before they are accumulated.

Equal rights for migrant population
Increasing mobility among population is unavoidable in the urbanization process in China. This, again, may be a common concern for any country in the world. Equal rights of people on mobility stands central to the issue, including their employment, income, health, education, and social insurance, etc.

120 to 140 million people, or 10 percent of the total population are on move in China. The Chinese government regards this as a social progress because the free flow of people means more possibilities and freedom for people. The Chinese government has also realized the importance of taking measures of foresight.

Zhao made it very clear that the top priority would be given to secure the equal rights of the migrant population. Helping hands should be extended to improve the health and education of the group and their kids. Zhao took Beijing and Shanghai as examples where free services of family planning and reproductive health are available to migrant groups. In addition, cities should be carefully planned to influence the flow of people and avoid super large cities.

AIDS prevention
We take AIDS issue a social one, not only related to health, said Zhao. So besides political commitment and government efforts, the integration of all the social resources is absolutely necessary, Zhao urged.

In China, an army of about 120,000 technicians around the nations plus about 1 million women volunteers in rural areas are playing an important role in preventing the spread of AIDS epidemic.

Besides that, things go smoothly for a project which, under the assistance of UN Population Fund, covers eight provinces in China and combines the reproductive health and AIDS prevention, focusing on the promotion of the use of condoms and the containment of possible channels of contracting AIDS.

Zhao expressed his firm belief about great contribution that can be made by his institution, National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. There are three underlying reasons, he said. First, a perfect publicity network among people is ready. Second, the reproductive health is interlinked with two of the three channels of contracting AIDS, sex and mother-to-baby. And third, for a long period in the future, the responsibility of his commission will still mainly cover the female population in the fertile age who are the most vulnerable to AIDS.

So, Zhao promised, the body responsible for China's population affairs will join hands with the health department to do a better job on AIDS prevention.

By People's Daily Online

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