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Experts question basis for 'social fostering fee'

By Cai Wenjun (Shanghai Daily)

08:15, May 03, 2012

The social fostering fee, a sum charged for a child born outside China's one-child policy, has no legal basis and is out of date under the current low birth rate, according to population experts.

They also question where the money raised, said to be as much as 20 billion yuan (US$3.17 billion) a year, goes.

He Yafu, a population policy researcher, said China started to collect the fee in 1980, since when 150 to 200 million people had been born in contravention of the one-child policy.

In the 1980s, the fee was said to be a fine for delivering "unlawful" children. The term changed to "unlawful delivering fee" in 1994 and then to a "social fostering fee" in 2000. The term was included in the Population and Family Planning Law issued in 2001.

The National Population and Family Planning Commission said the social fostering fee was not a fine but the economic compensation that a couple must pay because an extra child uses additional public resources.

However, the fee is actually a punishment for middle income families while needy families could go bankrupt because of it, said Yang Zhizhu, a former college professor in Beijing who was charged more than 240,000 yuan for having an "unlawful" second child and fired by his employer, the China Youth University for Political Sciences.

He said wealthy families avoided paying the fee by giving birth to their extra children overseas.

Yang told the Investor Journal that his fee was calculated as nine times a Beijing resident's average income in 2009.

Wang Jianxun, a professor from China University of Political Science and Law, said the government could encourage couples to follow family planning but not force them to do so. "Illegally delivering a child is a wrong concept and charging a social fostering fee has no proper basis," Wang told the journal.

There was also concern about the different application of the fee across the country and how the money collected was used.

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