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UPDATED: 09:44, August 05, 2004
China strives to curb population growth through reward
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Unlike most other Chinese women farmers her age, 64-year-old Lian Zhengfang only has child. And because of that, Lian is rewarded by the government.

From this year on, Lian will be granted 600 yuan (72.55 US dollars) in subsidies by the government each year until her death.

"I never expected that I would be rewarded for having only one child," said Lian, a farmer in Yongfeng Village, Dingxi in northwest China's Gansu Province, where it is quite common for a woman of Lian's age to have four to six or even more children.

Li said, "I will persuade my grandchildren to have fewer children."

Rewarding farmers who have fewer children is a new family planning policy adopted by the Chinese government. According to relevant stipulations, farmers, who have only one child or two girls, will be awarded 600 yuan by the government annually from the age of 60.

This policy will be implemented on a trial basis in 15 provinces and municipalities in western and central parts of China this year and is expected to be gradually practiced nationwide in the future, according to an official with the State Commission for Population and Family Planning.

Pan Guiyu, vice-minister in charge of the commission, said that the reward policy was an important step to encourage farmers to act in accordance with the state family planning policy of maintaining a low birth rate in the country.

Pan said the policy will help settle the population problem and achieve coordinated development between population and economic and social progress.

It is also a breakthrough in building the social security system in China's rural areas, he noted.

As the most populous country in the world, China faces serious pressure on economic development and social progress from population growth. Statistics show that in the 30 years following the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China's population grew by 430 million. China saw its population approach 1.3 billion by the end of 2003.

China began implementing the family planning policy to curb fast population growth and improve population quality in the early1970s, encouraging couples to have only one child. Farmers, who often have difficulties in maintaining their lifestyle with just one child, are allowed to have a second child with the approval of relevant department. Ethnic minority people enjoy the right to have more children.

Over the past three decades and more, China mainly implemented its family planning policy by administrative measures and those who had more than one child without special approval faced punishment and fines.

As a result, China's new-born population was reduced by more than 300 million over the past more than 30 years. But the compulsory policy caused other social problems, such as an unbalanced sex ratio and a drop in living standard of some families, especially in rural areas.

Some experts and local officials, therefore, exhorted the government to set up a system to financially assist rural families which actively respond to government's family planning policies.

The State Council decided that the central and local governments split the cost of the money received by qualifying families.

According to relevant policy, farmers who will be rewarded must meet the following requirements: both husband and wife are farmers; they had no children born between 1973 and 2001 in violation of state policies and regulations; they have one child, two girls or no children; they are at least 60 years old.

In Jiaozuo City of central China's Henan Province, 30 farmers have recently received the subsidy. Local officials said that 2,106 more farmers were expected to get money soon.

Like Lian Zhengfang, the woman farmer of northwestern Gansu Province, a total of 143 farmers in the province have received 600yuan given by the government.

Xie Houyuan, 49, a farmer of Jinping Village, Dingxi City of Gansu, had had three girls before getting the son he expected long ago. According to state policies, the last two children of Xie's were born in violation of state family planning policies. He was fined severely.

He scrabbled for many years to support his six-member family, but their living standard did not improve a lot.

"At that time, I desperately want to have a son to take care of me in my remaining years," said Hou. "But now, I admire those who have fewer children and are rewarded by the government."

"If only I knew that having fewer children would be rewarded, I wouldn't have had so many children," Hou said.

Liu Junzhe, an expert of population, said that the change from "punishing those who have many children" to "rewarding those who have fewer children" shows that China's family planning policy has begun to place more value on human rights.

The reward mechanism is also expected to change the traditional view that boys take the responsibility to support their parents and carry on the ancestral line, and help resolve the problem of unbalanced sex ratio, said Liu.

Source: Xinhua

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