While internet polls suggest public approval of Beijing's plan to relax the one-child policy, reality bites when eligible newlyweds and young couples in Guangdong are asked to seriously consider whether to have one or two children.
A poll conducted by the Southern Metropolis News on Monday found two-thirds of the respondents would prefer to have two children if government policy permits it. Of those who said they preferred not to have two, nearly 8 per cent cited financial reasons.
Following its third plenum last week, the Communist Party announced couples would be allowed a second child if one of the parents is an only child. The move is a bid to counter the ageing of the population and the shrinking of the workforce. It will be up to provinces to decide when to introduce the reform.
Experts expect Guangdong will take the lead, with Hong Kong feeling the effects of the population change in demand for staples such as infant formula.
Officials are quoted as saying the change could bring an extra one million births a year if implemented across the mainland.
Accounting manager Ivy Li, a 35-year-old living in Guangzhou, gave the initiative a cautious welcome. She has no child yet.
"This is one more option for us. The policy is about rectifying an unreasonable ageing population structure, but it also means the problem of inadequate social security is worsening," Li said.
"The government is telling us to delay our retirement and have more babies and yet more and more university graduates are jobless. I fear competition for access to public resources will be more intense due to more children. Mainland parents are already paying an entrance premium for their kids to get into good kindergartens and schools that cater to civil servants and people with connections."
Li also pointed to the daunting cost of raising a child, which can be as much as 2 million yuan (HK$2.5 million) from birth to university, as a deterrent to having bigger families.
Zhang Qian, a 36-year-old bank manager, is excited about the policy but reluctant to have another child after giving birth to a son five years ago. "It's better for a child to grow up with a sibling, but it's too costly and takes too much effort to have a second baby; it will significantly lower our overall quality of life. I need to speak to my doctor and evaluate our family finances before going ahead," Zhang said.
Dr Peng Peng , a researcher with the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said the relaxation of the one-child policy might begin in the province. "Guangdong is the first province to submit proposals to pioneer a second-baby policy for families where one parent was an only child. If the policy is carried out nationwide, Guangdong would see about 100,000 extra newborns every year. It's reasonable for Hong Kong to worry."
Across the nation, a straw poll conducted via the People's Daily microblog shows almost 51 per cent of the 6,729 taking part up to Monday said they wanted a second baby. About 33 per cent disagreed, with the rest undecided.
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