And Finally

The two-child policy

Shanghai counters dwindling population with reversal of strategy

Chinese twins Leilei and Yaoyao

It seems like the world’s most populous country wants to get a little bigger. For the first time in decades, Chinese officials are encouraging procreation.

Well, China is not doing away with the one-child policy just yet, but it is allowing more exceptions to the rule.

Citing concerns over the ageing of its population (and a shrinking workforce), the financial hub of Shanghai is taking the dramatic step of encouraging residents to exceed the country’s famed “one child” limit.

In the past, Shanghai has allowed couples to have two children if each parent was an only child, but few have done so. City officials are now visiting homes, slipping leaflets under doors and offering financial incentives.

“We encourage eligible couples to have two kids because it can help reduce the proportion of elderly people,” said Xie Lingli, director of the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission.

Shanghai will soon be a “city of geriatrics”, says China Daily. The city has more than 3 million registered residents aged 60 and above, i.e. nearly 22% of the population. By 2020, the proportion is expected to rise to about 34%.

The country as a whole is facing a similar problem. Estimates show that the number of older Chinese will triple from 110 million last year to 349 million by 2050.

And the fact is, China is not prepared to cope with the rising number of retirees. Its state pension system is severely underfunded, and shrinking family sizes have put enormous pressure on the younger generation as they struggle to care for two parents (and that is not including the in-laws).

Indeed, in a recent poll of those born after the 1970s – published by China Youth Daily – half the 3,144 people sampled felt it was a “big burden” as an only child to care for two parents.

But the two-child policy doesn’t apply to all Shanghaiese.

The city has identified twelve categories of couples who are permitted to have two children. For instance, a second child is okay if both spouses are only children, or have doctorates, or if they are disabled. It is also allowed if the couple is “rural”, if their first child is a girl and in cases when a divorcee marries someone childless.

Despite the apparent about-face in policy direction, not all residents are so keen on the idea.

“I don’t think we will have a second kid,” said 26 year-old Xiao Chen. “After all, it is stressful work raising a child.”


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