Aging population could bring vital changes to family planning policy

08:15, November 11, 2010      

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In the face of an aging population in this coastal city, the government should improve the social welfare system and encourage more eligible couples to have a second child, a political adviser suggested.

"Shanghai is challenged with a tough demographic situation. The combined pressure of a low birth rate and a growing elderly population hinders the city's sustainable development," said Meng Yankun, the city's political adviser.

People under 14 account for 19 percent of the national population, while among Shanghai's 13 million registered population, the percentage is only 8.4 percent.

Even taking the city's immigrant population into account, the percentage is no more than 10 percent, according to Meng's research.

Meanwhile, Shanghai has more than 3 million people aged 60 or older, accounting for 22.5 percent of the city's population. That will exceed 28 percent by 2015.

The rising number of old people will increase the pressure on the younger generation and challenge the social security system.

"The government should step up support for the welfare system for pregnant women, infants and child education to help share the family's burden of bearing a child," said Meng, who is also director of the Population, Resources and Environment Committee under the city's political advisory body.

"They should also create attractive policies to encourage more eligible couples to have a second child, such as extending compulsory education to secondary education, improving the social welfare system and allowing both spouses to receive subsidies and enjoy paid leave," she said.

Chinese media reported earlier that the country will loosen its family planning policy next year by picking five provinces with low birth rates - Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Couples with one spouse from a single-child family will be allowed to have two children, and the policy may be extended nationwide after a five-year trial.

Zhang Meixing, spokesman of the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission, said Shanghai has no specific plans yet to adjust the policy.

However, the city has already begun to encourage more eligible couples to have a second child, including couples where both spouses are single children, couples whose first child has a non-hereditary disability, or disabled couples whose ability to work is impaired.

The city previously cancelled the four-year interval between first and second births, leading to a rise in births of second children from 2,910 in 2005 to 3,934 in 2007, according to the population department.

Xie Zhenming, deputy director of the China Population and Development Research Center, said that relaxing the population policy alone cannot improve the situation. Social and economic policies also need to be adjusted.

A 30-year-old man surnamed Zhang said: "It is good to have more children in a family. You won't feel lonely when you are old."

"But the cost of raising a child is so huge, especially in the face of inflation. It's a great burden to families and lowers the quality of life," he said.

By Wang Hongyi, China Daily


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