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The decision of the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to allow a married couple to have two children if one of the couple is an only child is indeed welcome news to the many young couples who want to have more than one child.
It is also a solace to those who worry that our rapidly aging society and lack of working-age people will deal a heavy blow to the country's economic growth.
A tourist plays with a girl on a street outside the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Nov 8, 2013.[Photo by Zou Hong/Asianewsphoto]
What is even more meaningful is the statement in the decision that the family planning policy will be gradually adjusted to promote demographic development on a balanced and long-term basis.
Such flexibility is necessary and should be lauded, given the fact that China is the most populous nation in the world and one of the major engines for the global economy.
People are now anticipating further loosening as a higher birth rate is needed to offset the too low birth rate of the past and the rapid aging of society, which are putting pressure on economic growth and social progress.
Economists see the drop in the working-age population by 3.45 million in 2012 as strong evidence of the need for a much higher birth rate to avert an economic crisis caused by a lack of labor.
Sociologists consider the fertility rate of 1.18 in 2012 as a sign of social inertia, and warn the rapid increase of senior citizens will stymie the dynamics of both economic and social progress.
These concerns must have been taken into consideration during the process of making the decision. However, as a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, China can never brush aside concerns about the negative effects a population explosion would have on its economic and social development.
What we need now are reasonable expectations for the country's demographic growth. It was expected that under the previous family planning policies, the country's population would grow to 1.5 billion and then gradually drop. If this is still the prospect we hope to realize, further study is needed to figure out how we should adjust the policies so that the decline in population will not be so sharp that it deals a heavy blow to the overall development of the country.
(China Daily 11/19/2013 page8)