Opinion / Editorials

Second-child policy

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-06 08:03

Should the family planning policy be adjusted? This is the question.

Three researchers with the State Council suggested in a recent article that all child-bearing age couples should be allowed to give birth to two children, and the earlier the family planning policy is adjusted the better.

They argued that the country's birth rate is less than the officially published 1.8 and the birth rate in Shanghai and Beijing is lower than 1.

Current policies give specific requirements for couples to have second children. Both members of a Han couple should be a single child themselves or meet special conditions if they are to have a second child. Couples of most other ethnic groups can usually have two or, in some cases, more children.

The population dividend will soon disappear, the researchers argued, and the problems of a lack of labor and an aging society will become severe if the family planning policy is not adjusted as soon as possible.

True, China's population is becoming increasingly old. The number of residents over the age of 60 reached 185 million by the end of 2011, 13.7 percent of the total population. And it is expected to reach 221 million, about 16 percent of the total population by 2015.

According to official analysis of the latest census in 2010, the country's labor-age population will peak at around 900 million within the decade.

But family planning is a serious issue particularly for such a populous nation as China. Any policy change should be based on thorough investigations and research.

Only with adequate information and data about the population structure and other related issues, will the government be able to come up with informed decisions about when and how the policy should be adjusted.

The labor shortage and rapidly aging population will have an impact on the country's overall development. So there is an urgent need for a cool-headed review of our demographic conditions and family planning policy to make sure they serve the nation in the future.

Like the current debate over the retirement age, which it is closely related to, this topic may be highly controversial. But different opinions and debate will be conducive to making informed decisions.

(China Daily 07/06/2012 page8)

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