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
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star