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Policies to assist those who lost child

Updated: 2013-12-24 01:15
By Shan Juan ( China Daily)

In the context of the nation's one-child policy over the past 30 years, China has seen a growing number of families who have suffered the loss of their only child and were struggling with the pain.

By the end of 2012, China had 355,000 parents aged 49 or older who had lost their only child by accident, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

About 76,000 families in the mainland lose their only child every year, and the total number of such families amounted to more than 1 million, according to a yearbook issued by the commission, then the ministry of health, in 2010.

The mainland now has 150 million only children, government statistics show.

"A special policy for such parents whose only child is seriously injured or dies prematurely will probably be issued at the end of this year or early next year," said a commission division director surnamed Zhou.

The government pledged to beef up measures and policies affecting such families and to better answer their needs, according to a draft resolution to improve the family planning policy.

It was introduced for review at the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the top legislature, on Monday.

Zheng Puli, a 62-year-old retiree in Shanghai, said she appreciated the government initiative, though it was overdue.

Zheng's only daughter died in an accident in 2007.

The girl, a sophomore at a prestigious Beijing university, died while volunteer teaching at a primary school in Shanxi province.

"Our 'yellow rose', the only hope of the family! The pain never went away," Zheng told China Daily on Monday.

As ordinary retired workers in the metropolis, the couple now earns about 5,500 yuan ($906) a month, "and that could hardly buy two beds at a decent rest home in Shanghai", she said.

In 2008, the Shanghai government introduced a special subsidy — 150 yuan a month — to parents older than 50 whose only child was severely injured or died.

That was raised to 500 yuan by 2013, Zheng said. But she said she expected more, especially in her old age.

"The older I become, the more I miss my daughter. The feeling of insecurity has made me tense. I don't want to die alone in my apartment," she said.

She expected more attention and care from the government and society for those in her special group.

"More comprehensive policies, including mental support, should be introduced," she said.

Currently, families like Zheng's across the mainland are covered by a policy issued in 2007 by the commission to support parents at least 49 years old whose only child died in an accident or because of a disease or who were seriously injured.

At such an age, the parents could hardly have another child, said Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Nankai University.

Given limited social security and welfare, Chinese parents still depend on children for old-age care, particularly in the countryside, he said.

"Such families should be well cared for by the government, financially and psychologically," he said.

Yuan urged creation of a more special and comprehensive nationwide policy to address the difficulties of such families.

At the direction of the commission, the China Family Planning Association has introduced pilot projects in selected regions caring for such families.

Initially introduced in 15 cities, the projects were expanded this year to 48 cities nationwide, according to the annual working meeting of the organization.

The projects cover a full line of varied services, including economic subsidies, mental consultation sessions, mutual-help activities and supplementary health insurance programs.

Meanwhile, population scientists have been sent to trial areas to assess the outcome of the projects and look for problems.

"Such efforts would help guide policy-making by the commission," Yuan said.

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