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Q&A about the new two-child policy

Source: en.nhfpc.gov.cn

Updated: 2015-11-06

Wang Pei’an, Vice Minister of National Health and Family Planning Commission, explains the new two-child policy.

Question 1: It has been decided in the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee that China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of family planning and improve its strategy on population development. In the meanwhile, China will fully introduce the policy of “one couple, two children”, which has attracted wide public attention. Will you please explain under what circumstances the family planning policy came into force in our country?

Wang Pei’an: After the founding of the new China in 1949, the economy soon recovered and people’s living standards improved, along with a dramatic decline in mortality in a population that grew from 540 million to 830 million in 1970. The difficulties people faced in basic necessities of life increased, which imposed great burdens on economic and social development. To slow down the rapid increase of population, China began the family planning policy in the early 1970s. In 1980, the CPC central committee delivered an “Open Letter to All CPC and CYLC Members on Controlling Population Growth”, advocating the one-child policy. Two years later, the family planning policy was written into the Constitution as a basic national policy. But adjustments and improvements have been made in response to changes of population growth in relation to economic and social development.

Question 2: What achievements have we made with the family planning policy?

Wang Pei’an: The past 40 years have seen remarkable achievements with the family planning policy. First, the policy has effectively reined in the surging population and made a historic transition in reproduction patterns. Despite the relatively backward economic and social development, the transition is evident from a pattern of high birth rate, low death rate and high growth rate to one of low birth rate, low death rate and low growth rate, bringing the fertility rate even with many developed countries. Second, the pressure on resources and the environment was successfully relieved while the conditions of people’s subsistence and development improved. If not for the family planning policy, the per capita amount of arable land, food, forests and fresh water would be 20 percent less than it is at present, and the quality of people’s life would have been worse. Third, the policy created a relatively long period of demographic dividends, providing manpower to long-term economic development. Research indicates that China’s demographic dividend has contributed to about 20 percent of the increase of per capita income since the reform and opening up in the late 1970s. Practice shows that pursuing the family planning policy based on China’s realities has effectively promoted economic development, social progress and people’s well-being, lent support to the reform and socialist modernization, and laid a solid foundation for a moderately prosperous society in all respects. China’s family planning policy also contributed significantly to a healthy development of the world population and poverty reduction, which has helped build an image of responsibility for this populous nation.

Question 3: The Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee decided that a couple may have two children if one spouse is an only child. What are the effects of the implementation?

Wang Pei’an: Since the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, local governments have diligently followed the decisions and plans of the Central Committee by formulating their own programs, and carrying out the selective two-child policy. By means of newspaper, broadcasting, and new media together with follow-up visits to households, family planning workers and community-level cadres have widely advertised and clarified the policy, making it basically a household watchword. Meanwhile, the procedures of having a second child have been simplified and maternal and child healthcare have been arranged. By September 2015, local offices received 1.76 million applications from eligible couples for a second child. The number of such application has been rising steadily. Though women of childbearing age continued to decrease, there were 470,000 more births in 2014 than in the previous year, showing that the second-child population has increased. Such fertility changes agreed with general projections after the implementation of the selective two-child policy. This policy is an important step in adjusting and improving the family p’anning policy. It released part of the potential energy of fertility, enabling us to understand behavior related to desires and expectations on fertility, thus laying a foundation for the universal two-child policy.

Question 4: What is the universal two-child policy? Why should we carry it out?

Wang Pei’an: The universal two-child policy applies to all couples, regardless of residence registration (urban or rural), region or ethnicity. It is a step forward in adjusting and improving the family planning policy from the selective two-child policy and a significant strategic decision by the Party Central Committee, based the population and economic and social development. At present, China’s population is facing transitional changes. First, the population increase is slowing down and the number of women of childbearing age has dropped steadily—especially the number of women between 20 and 29 years old, the golden age of child-bearing. People’s desires for children have changed since fewer and better births have been the mainstream of public fertility perception. Secondl, the structural population problem is becoming noticeable. The working-age population is dropping while the aging population is climbing, with the sex ratio at birth sustained at a high level in favor of the males. Third, family size is scaling down with traditional functions such as supporting the young and elderly are weakening. These changes have brought new challenges to development and population security. In the next few years, China’s labor force will be abundant and the pressure of social welfare will be small, which might create an opportunity for the adjustment and improvement of the family planning policy. To carry out the universal two-child policy by abiding by the law of population development and complying with people’s expectations will help optimize the population structure and maintain the vitality of economic and social development. It will also promote family happiness and social harmony as well as contribute to the long-term development of the Chinese nation and the realization of the Two Centenary Goals.

Question 5: What was the decision-making process in designing the universal two-child policy?

Wang Pei’an: The Party Central Committee and State Council take population and family planning very seriously. President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders of the Central Committee have issued important instructions and comments on adjusting and improving the policy. At the beginning of this year, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) and other government departments conducted a joint, special study on the population development strategy in the “13th Five-Year Plan” period and policies to deal with the aging population. Since March 2015, the NHFPC organized several research groups on feasibility and solutions for the universal two-child policy through multiple scenarios. We’ve held about 100 seminars and listened to advice from experts in population, economy, community, resources and the environment as well as those from NHFPC chapters at all levels and other agencies. In addition, we’ve conducted in-depth surveys in over 20 provinces. Combined with repeated assessments by the National Development and Reform Commission and other ministries, we have formulated a series of research reports and recommendations for the universal two-child policy, providing support for the decision.

Question 6: Does this mean that China will revoke its national policy of family planning after the implementation of the universal two-child policy?

Wang Pei'an: Family planning remains a long-term national policy for China. After the introduction of the universal two-child policy, China’s population is expected to reach 1.45 billion by 2030. For a long period of time, there will be little drastic change with the demography of a large population. Economic and social pressure due to the tension between a large population and available resources and the environment will still be there. Meanwhile, with the growth of population and the development of economy and society, a new meaning has been fused into the family planning policy through further adjustments and improvement. Currently, adhering to the basic national policy of family planning means implementing the universal two-child policy and reforming family planning service and management. Guidance is required and each family will be responsible for its own birth planning. To promote domestic felicity and a balanced development, we also need to control the growth of the total population and optimize the demographic structure for a rational population distribution.

Question 7: When will the universal two-child policy be implemented?

Wang Pei'an: According to the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, we need to amend the Population and Family Planning Law and its supplementary regulations before implementing the policy.

Question 8: Is it necessary to apply for birth permits after the implementation of the universal two-child policy?

Wang Pei'an: According to the arrangements of the Central Committee to promote reform in family planning service and management, we have carried out one-child registration throughout the country. After the policy adjustment, we will improve family planning service and management by carrying out birth registration service and phasing out the procedure of applying for second birth permits so as to gather accurate information on family planning. We will focus on strengthening guidance and counseling on healthy pregnancy and nurturing, on contraception and birth control, and on women’s and children’s health. We will also make greater efforts to provide listed free health and family planning services. A couple who chooses to have a second child should register with the authority of either the husband’s or the wife’s registered address. They may also register with the authority of their present place of residence. The specific measures will be formulated by the governments of the provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities. A couple eligible to have a second child will still need to follow registration procedures. The health and family planning departments will further simplify procedures to provide good and convenient services.

Question 9: After the implementation of the universal two-child policy, will a couple be still be eligible for the benefits of an only child?

Wang Pei'an: After implementing the universal two-child policy, we encourage people to abide by the new family planning regulations. Spouses who voluntarily choose to have only one child will not be issued with the “Honor Certificate for Parents of a Single Child” and will no longer be eligible for the benefits. Those who already have the certificate will continue to be entitled to all benefits where the regulations apply. If they want a second child, these preferential benefits will no longer be provided. They do not need to return what they have already received. It needs to be pointed out that local governments should take proactive measures to give more support to families complying with the policy but facing special problems and solve their problems by providing minimum life requirements, old-age care services, medical treatment for serious illness and spiritual consolation.

Question 10: Will the universal two-child policy lead to a baby boom in a short period of time?

Wang Pei'an: At the present stage, about 90 million couples are eligible for a second child. After the introduction of the new policy, the infant population will increase in the following years, expected to reach over 20 million in the highest year. That is the expected impact of the policy adjustments.

Question 11: The universal two-child policy will bring more pregnant and lying-in women, especially women of advanced paternal age. How will you guarantee the safety of mothers and babies?

Wang Pei'an: According to calculations, about 60 percent of eligible women are over age 35. Therefore, the number of women of advanced paternal age will increase after the policy adjustments, demonstrating a higher risk of comorbidity and complications during pregnancy. For this reason, we will first enhance maternal and children’s health care by strengthening the training of nursing staff. Second, we will adopt methods of grading diagnosis and treatment to guide the public to appropriate midwifery institutions. Third, we will provide more guidance and counseling services to pregnant and lying-in women. Fourth, we will improve the networking, referral and consultation mechanisms for pregnant and lying-in women and new-born babies to ensure the effectiveness of treatment. To sum up, we will take every possible measure to ensure the safety of mothers and babies.

Question 12: How will the universal two-child policy affect our resources and the environment?

Wang Pei'an: While formulating the mid-long term strategic plan and objectives, we have taken into consideration the impacts of family planning policy adjustments. According to the calculations by departments concerned, the supply of energy and food in China is within an acceptable range. Therefore, the universal two-child policy will not affect the realization of our current objectives despite pressure on resources and the environment.

Question 13: How will the universal two-child policy affect the economic and social development of our country?

Wang Pei'an: In the short term, the universal two-child policy will directly boost consumption in such sectors as women’s and children’s healthcare, products for infants and young children, childcare services, and education. In the long term, however, it can help stabilize economic growth by adding around 30 million workers aged between 15 and 59 by 2050. The policy will also increase demands on public services, bringing pressure on healthcare, childcare, and education. However, all these can be handled through increasing input, vitalizing stock advantage, and optimizing configuration.

Question 14: Why it is necessary to stabilize the grassroots network and teams of family planning?

Wang Pei'an: The universal two-child policy concerns the happiness and health of hundreds of millions of households. To carry out this policy effectively, we expect more work in family planning services and management. More and higher requirements are expected. We should serve residents in family planning properly and at the same time control possible risks. We need to enhance publicity, guidance and dynamic monitoring on births to give our citizens proper family planning for the prevention of another baby boom. We must strengthen grassroots work, and stabilize the teams of FP program management, technical services and mass work at the county and township levels for effective implementation of all service and administrative programs.


Link: China's Central Government / World Health Organization / United Nations Population Fund / UNICEF in China

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