New policy eases one-child restrictions
Shanghai, China's largest city is set to implement a new population policy beginning Thursday that will make it a bit easier for certain locals to have a second child.
The new Shanghai population and family planning regulation, which was approved by Shanghai People's Congress late last year, stipulates that a husband and wife who both are single children themselves can have a second child.
The new policy also cancels a four-year interval period between the first and second child, which was set down by old provisions.
Originally, only a couple in a second marriage could have another child if one of the spouses did not already have one. The new regulation removes such a prerequisite. It means a newly organized family can have one more child even if the couple have children from earlier marriages.
Under the old regulation, if one member of a couple in rural areas is disabled to such an extent that it affects his or her labour capabilities, the family can have a second child. Under the amendment, such a right now will be extended to urban families.
The loosening of the restrictions opens "a small crack" in the old family planning policy in Shanghai, one of the most densely populated areas in China, local media have reported.
The policy readjustments -- though only small in scope -- indicates more humanitarian care.
On the other hand, it also represents decision-makers' concern for the city's aging population, pointed out Zhang Henian, deputy director of the Institute of Population and Development Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Zhang noted that city government needs to further loosen certain population policies in Shanghai's suburbs while continuing to control population growth in the city's congested downtown areas.
"To refine the city's population distribution is urgent, yet it will be a long process," Zhang added.
The city's family planing authority, however, emphasizes that the new regulations do not mean to "greatly loosen restrictions on second births."
"They are not to encourage more childbearing," said Xia Yi, vice-director of Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission. "The one-child policy will remain the basis for the new regulation."
Shanghai's population was estimated at around 17 million at the end of 2003, including 3 million migrant workers who reportedly lived in the city for at least six months.
Immigration has made an exclusive contribution to the city's population growth as the local aging population witnessed negative natural growth for 11 consecutive years, according to commission statistics.
In another development, the city has set up a population forecasting system to reduce fluctuations in birth rates.
Under the system, the city's family planning commission will provide one to two periodic forecasts every year on local birth rates, which will help local families better plan their child births and avoid peaks in education and employment.