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Heated discussion over loosening of one-child policy

Updated: 2013-11-16 14:56
( Xinhua)

After China announced its decision to loosen the one-child policy, heated discussion and controversy has broken out in the country's most populous province, Henan.

According to the decision approved at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee held from November 9 to 12 in Beijing, the new policy will allow couples to have two children if one of them is an only child.

The evening after the decision was issued, a major Chinese web portal started an online poll regarding "whether people would choose to have a second child." Thousands of people voted in less than two hours, and more than 60 percent of them said "yes." PROS

"The adjusted birth policy did not only meet many people's expectations, but is in line with a long-term balanced development of the population in China, " said Zhang Yuanzhen, a professor at Henan Institute of Family Planning.

"It could be positive for structural population problems such as the aging problem, persistent imbalance of genders and decrease of working population," Zhang said.

"The new policy will help keep the birth rate stable, preventing a sharp decline in population after it reaches the peak," said Zhang. It is estimated that China's population will reach a peak of 1.5 billion around 2033.

The family planning policy was introduced in the late 1970s to slow down population growth by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children if their first child was a girl.

It is estimated that the policy has resulted in 400 million fewer people in China, and the current fertility rate is stable between 1.5 and 1.6, far lower than the population replacement level.

The policy was relaxed somewhat in 2011, to reduce some social problems, and its current form stipulates that both parents must be only children if they are to have a second child. HESITATION

The most populous province with 120 million, Henan was the last to relax the policy due to the pressure of continuing population growth.

Will there be another baby boom which will worsen the difficulties of sending children to kindergarten and school? People are starting to wonder.

Internet user  "Huang Shan" said, "I don't want any more children. The problem is that there are not enough social resources. It would be funny if there aren't enough schools and hospitals for more babies."

"Liujing__2009" said,"I am hesitant. If I have a second child I will have to be a full-time mother. Two children will require much more energy to take care of them. My husband doesn't want a second baby, he thinks taking care of one is exhausting enough."

Discussion of second babies or not has already led to fights. Wei is a doctor at the Third Affiliated Hospital of Henan College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

"Both sides of the parents want us to have another baby, but my wife and I are doctors. We are too tired to have another child," Wei said. EXPERTS' OPINION

Regarding people's concern over a baby boom, population expert Zhang Yuanzhen said, "the new policy will have a large impact on individual families, but not on the whole country."

There will not be a baby boom and it will not bring huge pressure to bear on food security, health, education or employment, said Zhang.

According to a survey by the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the new policy will apply to roughly 15 to 20 million people, only half of whom are actually willing to have a second child.

Also, due to the decades long family planning policy, families which have only one child in rural areas are far fewer than in those in cities. Thus the new policy will apply mainly to couples in the city. With the cost of raising a child in a city relatively high, people will think it through before they make a decision, said Zhang.

The new policy is seen by some as unfair. "Xiaoyuer" said, "everyone should be able to have a second child regardless of whether he or she is the only child or not. The new policy sounds encouraging at first but later on people feel it is unfair."

Liu Junjie, a population expert at Henan Academy of Social Sciences, said that China is unlikely to completely loosen its one-child policy soon.

"People's thoughts are understandable, but the adjustment of population structure should be gradual," Liu said.