Three researchers from a top government think tank are calling for an end to the controversial one-child policy - underscoring a growing consensus in the government to revamp the mainland's family-planning policies.
In an article in China Economic Times yesterday, Ge Yanfeng, Yu Dong and Zhang Bingzi, academics from the Development Research Centre of the State Council, attributed the stringent family-planning policies - in place for more than 30 years - to many challenges now faced by the mainland, including a rapidly ageing population and national labour shortage.
'As such, we advise [officials] to adjust the family-planning policies to allow people to have a second child,' they wrote in the article discussing broader social policies. They added that the longer it takes to change this policy, the more detrimental the situation will become.
The barbaric enforcement of the one-child policy again came under intensive scrutiny recently after a Shaanxi woman was forced to abort a seven-month-old fetus as she already had a five-year-old daughter and her family could not afford to pay a 40,000-yuan (HK$48,800) fine to have the second child.
The rare discussion among government-employed academics about the once-taboo issue of national family-planning policies also came amid a heated debate of a proposed extension of the retirement age to 65 for everyone - a controversial move that would help address the mounting pressure on the national social security fund in a rapidly ageing population. That pressure has been intensified by the family-planning policies.
Yi Fuxian, an expert in demographics and the author of A Big Country in an Empty Nest, a book critical of the policies, said that calls for an end to the one-child policy by academics from a government think-tank highlighted a major change in official attitude towards the policies.
'Just a few years ago, my writings critical of the family-planning policies were subject to heavy censorship, but now I can freely give speeches on the topic at mainland universities,' Yi said.
Liang Zhongtang, from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said that the high-profile call for an end to the one-child policy has certainly become a mainstream voice on the mainland, due to concerns about sustainable development and human rights violations - concerns that he said that many government officials privately share.