China doubles the pace of reform with proposed two-child policy

New President may relax rules for couples in cities in bid to solve problem of ageing population

Beijing

China is considering changes to its one-child policy to allow couples living in cities to have two children, in what may become new President Xi Jinping's first major reform since taking power.

In the face of a rapidly ageing society, government advisory bodies have been drafting proposals which would allow for all couples residing in urban areas to have a second child, the former head of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, Zhang Weiqing, told Chinese media. At present, only parents who are only children themselves are allowed to have a second child.

Demographers have warned that the one-child policy has led to a rapidly ageing population that could hamper China's economic competitiveness in the long run. It has also been blamed for fuelling illegal forced abortions, as well as the favouritism of baby boys over girls.

According to the National Population and Family Planning Commission, some 400 million births have been prevented by the one-child policy since it was introduced in 1978.

China's former President, Hu Jintao, took out references to maintaining low birth rates in his report to the ruling Communist Party's five-yearly congress earlier this month, raising expectation of imminent changes to the one-child policy.

However, change is unlikely to happen quickly, and will initially be trialled only in the cities, Mr Zhang told the China Daily newspaper.

"China's population policy has always taken into account demographic changes but any fine-tuning to the policy should be gradual and consider the situation in different areas," said Mr Zhang, who is director of the population, resources and environment committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"Even with the policy further relaxing, there won't be any sharp rise in the population," Mr Zhang said. Parents who violate the one-child policy are currently subjected to heavy fines – often one fifth of their yearly income.

In Beijing, couples in which both partners are only children are currently allowed to have two children. But those who give birth to a second child when the mother is less than 28-years-old, or the second child was born within four years after the first, are also fined.

Some wealthier couples who can afford to pay the fine – or "social maintenance fee" as it is known – do so. But they cannot obtain a hukou or household registration document and lose educational and health benefits.

Steve Tsang, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies and Director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, said it would be a major step forward for the new leader, Xi Jinping, if he were to formally end the policy, though he expressed scepticism that it would be announced in such a sweeping manner.

"Population growth is now below the replacement level," said Professor Tsang, referring to the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.

"The projection of demographics would suggest that the time has come to end the one-child policy, as China's population will start to shrink… and that shrinking working population will need to support an enlarging ageing population in the next two decades."

He Yafu, a demographer, has been strongly critical of the programme, particularly the practice of some officials which allow couples to have a second child if the first is a girl.

Mr He argues that the policy reinforces the idea that a girl is less valuable than a boy, which has led to a badly skewed sex ratio.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment