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All couples may be allowed to have a second child soon: expert

By Wang Xiaodong (Chinadaily.com.cn)    12:25, May 08, 2015
The two-child policy was put into practice in early 2014 and did not lead to the baby boom in many provinces in China. [Photo by Zou Zhongpin/for China Daily]

All couples in China may be allowed to have a second child in the next few years with the relaxation of the family planning policy, population experts say.

Currently, most couples in urban areas can have a second child if at least one parent has no siblings, and couples in rural areas can have a second child if the first one is a girl.

"I think most scholars in China agree with further relaxing the family planning policy so all couples can have two children if they want, and the focus of disputes on the issue center on when and in what form the policy will be carried out", said Yuan Xin, a professor in population studies in Nankai University in Tianjin municipality.

"In my opinion, all couples will be allowed to have two children after two or three years, following the current transitional period."

Family planning polices have a huge impact on the whole population and caution should be exercised in implementing any changes, Yuan said.

The National People's Congress, China's top legislature, adopted a proposal at the end of 2013 by the central government that allows couples to have a second child if either of them has no siblings.

About 1.07 million such couples had registered with the authorities to have a second child by the end of last year, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

"It is a transitional policy, and it has some incentive to stimulate population growth in China, but the incentive will be diminished over the next few years," Yuan said. "And then it will be the time for a policy that allows two children for all couples."

Yang Juhua, a professor of the population development studies center at Renmin University of China, said it will be time for a more relaxed family planning policy, considering the very low fertility rate and a rapidly ageing population in China.

"I think there will be no question that all couples across the country will be allowed to have a second child during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020)," she said.

Zhai Zhenwu, head of the China Population Association, said family planning policies will be further relaxed at the current level, according to a report of the Southern Metropolis Daily on Thursday.

China adopted a strict family planning policy as an essential national policy from the 1970s, allowing almost all couples in urban areas to have only one child. The policy is gradually relaxing since the late 1990s, and since 2011 all couples have been allowed to have a second baby across China if both of them have no siblings.

Due to family planning policies, population growth in China has dramatically decreased in the past three decades, bringing problems such as a rapidly ageing population and a very low fertility rate.

The number of people aged 60 or above in China reached 202 million in 2013, accounting for 14.9 percent of the total population. The figure will reach to 38 percent by 2050, according to population authorities. Total fertility rate in China fell to less than 1.5 in China, lower than most other countries, many experts believe.

Song Shuli, spokeswoman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the top government department in charge of population policies in China, said at a press conference in April that China will continue to stick to the family planning policy considering the constant burden on China's resources, environment and social development placed by its huge population, but she suggested further relaxation of the policy in the future.

"We will gradually made adjustments to the family planning policy," she said. "Allowing couples to have a second child if one of them has no sibling is not the end (of the adjustment) and we will go further."

"We have been conducting research and evaluations and will continue to improve population polices," she said.

"China will not see a surge in population growth even if all families are allowed to have two children," Yang, from Renmin University of China, said.

People's minds have changed after decades of the current family planning policy, and many women will not have more children even if they are allowed to for reasons such as career development and the economic burden of raising children, she said.

"Population management has been relaxing in recent years," she said. "Actually many people in rural areas and even in big cities, such as Beijing, who really want to have a second child have given birth to them even if they are not eligible to do so."

Those who will get the most benefit from the expected policy would be government employees, who are much more restricted by the policies than ordinary people, she said.

"But such people account for a very small portion of the total population, and it will not cause a surge in population growth even if they choose to have a second child."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Bianji)

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