China relaxes one-child rule to beat pension crisis

Clifford Coonan
Saturday 25 July 2009 00:00

Fears that an ageing population could be left unable to support itself mean that China's biggest city and financial centre, Shanghai, is overhauling the decades-old One Child Policy and encouraging couples to have a second baby.

Many couples will be excluded from the new diktat, but if both parents were an only child, like most newly-weds in the city, they will be encouraged to conceive again, in an effort to ensure that the city's workforce is not outnumbered by its pensioners.

The rules are already in place, but so far not enough families have taken advantage of the exception. As a result, family planning authorities are going on the offensive, putting flyers under doors and making home visits to make the case for a second baby.

"We advocate eligible couples to have two children because it can help reduce the proportion of ageing people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future," Xie Lingli, head of the city's Family Planning Commission, told the China Daily.

Under the one-child policy, imposed in 1979 as a way of reining in population growth, most families were limited to one child.

The spectre of an ageing population hangs heavy over Shanghai, where the proportion of working adults to retirees is high and threatens a major burden. By 2050 China will have more than 438 million people over 60, with more than 100 million of them 80 and above. There will be just 1.6 working-age adults to support every person aged 60 and above, compared with 7.7 in 1975.

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