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No timetable for family planning policy changes

Updated: 2014-03-07 07:20
By Shan Juan and Zhao Huanxin ( China Daily)

China has no timetable for creating a comprehensive two-child policy and will stick with the current policy for the foreseeable future, the head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission said.

Li Bin made the remark at a news conference on Thursday on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress.

Li's comment was her first official statement on the issue since China relaxed its four-decade-old one-child policy in November. The revised policy allows couples to have a second child if one spouse is an only child. Previously, both spouses had to be an only child.

Li said that eight provinces so far have implemented the new policy.

Since the policy change, many have anticipated a comprehensive two-child policy.

Given that China has a huge population already and is charged with development tasks, "no timetable for that (policy change) has been made yet", Li said.

However, she added, "We'll closely look at all the demographic dynamics of the nation and constantly fine-tune the reproduction policy according to new situations and challenges.

"China will stick to the family planning policy as a basic national policy", which is also necessary for balanced and healthy population development over the long term, Li said.

To facilitate the revised policy, Li urged the country's maternity health providers to prepare to provide quality services for the newly eligible couples.

"We have to ensure that people indeed benefit from the policy," she said.

She referred to China's population challenges, including a rapidly aging society and maintaining a sustainable labor supply, as reasons that the country relaxed the one-child rule.

China is expected to welcome 1 million additional babies per year because of the policy revision, previous government estimates showed.

The number of additional births will not exceed 2 million, said Cai Fang, director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also a legislator.

Cai said he believes the conditional two-child policy is only a makeshift one to avert a potential flood of newborns, which would place a huge burden on society in terms of healthcare, education, and employment.

"If everything proceeds smoothly, I think China will soon have a comprehensive two-child policy," he said.

Some population experts estimated such a policy is two or three years down the road. But Cai said people might not have to wait that long.

Another legislator, Ma Xu, who heads the Institute of Science and Technology under the National Health and Family Planning Commission, urged the government to start researching a comprehensive two-child policy at once in a pre-emptive effort to address the challenges of population development.

Ma said people 60 and older account for 14 percent of the population, and that figure is expected to be 32 percent in 20 years.

Current reproduction policy could only manage to reduce the aging rate by 2 or 3 percentage points, "which could hardly reverse the aging trend facing China", he said.

The lawmaker also called for attention to a special group of women who choose to abort.

"According to some research, each year there are 30 million Chinese women choose abortion at last," Ma said.

About half of them had never given birth before, and nearly 10 million of them are unmarried, Ma quoted the research.

Ma did not specify the source of the research. But a report from Xinhua News Agency last July put the number of Chinese women choosing to abort at 13 million a year, citing "incomplete statistics" from the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

"The problem is, even if one day the policy of 'two children for one family' is in place, I doubt if these women will ever want to, or be able to give birth," the legislator said.

Contact the writer at shanjuan@chinadaily.com.cn

Zhao Shengnan contributed to this story.

(China Daily 03/07/2014 page5)