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
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower