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Many free to have more than one child
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09:27, July 11, 2007

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Less than 40 percent of the population is restricted by the family planning policy to having one child, a senior official with the National Population and Family Planning Commission said yesterday.

While popularly referred to as the "one child policy", the rule actually restricts just 35.9 percent of the population to having one child, Yu Xuejun, a spokesman with the commission, said in a Webcast on the government's website (www.gov.cn).

Except in Central China's Henan Province, couples can have two children if they are both only children, he said.

In addition, more than 11 percent of the population, mostly minority groups, is free to have two or more children, he said.

In many rural areas, couples are allowed to have a second child if their first is a girl (the so-called "one-and-a-half children policy"). This applies to 52.9 percent of the population. For lack of a social security system, people usually depend on sons to support them when they grow old.

Yu said China does not want the current birth rate of 1.8 per couple to fall, as it needs to be "in harmony with the economy, resources and environment".

He said that since 2000, the family planning policy has been adjusted to maintain the birth rate, not lower it.

"We don't encourage couples who are entitled to have two children to have only one," Yu said. "And it is not true we want the birth rate to be as low as possible."

He also suggested the export of labor could help reduce the population pressure.

"Family planning is, of course, not the only way to control the population," he said.

"China has 20 percent of the world's population, but accounts for only 1 percent of global expatriate laborers.

"In countries like the Philippines and Mexico, about 10 percent of laborers work abroad every year, which is a good inspiration for our country," he said.

Workers from the Philippines were even beginning to show up in China, he said.

Yu also said the family planning policy had a "certain relationship" with the acceleration of an aging society and the imbalance in the sex ratio of newborn babies.

However, he said the government must maintain its birth polices as the baby boom generation of the 1970s and 80s has now reached marriage and childbearing age, risking another population surge if restrictions are dropped.

"I can see no major changes in the family planning policy before 2010," he said.

"After that, the government might adjust it according to the situation."

China has maintained its family planning policy since the late 1970s.

Source: China Daily

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