Loosen one-child policy, think tank urges in party paper

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 December, 2009, 12:00am

The one-child policy should be loosened further by allowing more couples to have two children, the head of a population think tank argued yesterday in an article in the Communist Party mouthpiece, People's Daily.

'If a married couple includes at least one one-child partner, they should be allowed to have two children,' wrote Tian Xueyuan , executive president of the China Population Association, a think tank under the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

'The new policy can be immediately implemented in rural areas. It can be applied to the urban population with the launch of the 12th five-year plan [in 2011]. Many one-child families would be relieved of the burden of caring for the elderly and the age structure would be improved.

'The two-child policy should be applied to rural families without discrimination. Now, only parents who give birth to a girl are allowed to have a second child. The new policy will have a positive effect on the issue of gender imbalance,' he wrote.

The publication of Tian's article in People's Daily is significant, not only because of its status but because it has a track record of heralding major changes in population control policy.

In 1957, it published an article by economist Ma Yinchu warning that the mainland faced a population explosion that would have a disastrous impact unless action was taken. This article eventually became the guiding principle for population control with the establishment of the one-child policy in 1971.

Calls for a relaxation of the policy have been growing. At a demography forum in Shanghai in April, researchers called for an expansion of the two-child policy and warned that unless population control policy was reformed, China would face a major ageing problem.

In Shanghai, for instance, the birth rate has been below the minimum needed to maintain the population since 1998, and the city is reliant on the influx of migrants to maintain its vitality. In July, municipal family planning authorities launched a campaign to encourage eligible couples to have a second child.

As it stands, a couple who are both only children can have two children without being fined. For those who break the rules, the fines vary from place to place. In Beijing, for instance, the couple are fined 10 times their total annual income and face dismissal if they are government or state-owned enterprise employees.

Cai Fang , director of the Institute of Population and Labour Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the China News Service last month that the one-child policy was not suitable in the long term. 'One of our biggest challenges in the future is that our population will get old before it gets rich,' Cai was quoted as saying. 'China has never said that it will stick to the one-child policy forever.'

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