Xinhua Insight: One or two, that is the question

2015-10-30 11:37:42 GMT2015-10-30 19:37:42(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- When the Communist Party of China announced on Thursday that all couples will be allowed to have a second child, 33-year-old Zhang Jing cried.

"It was the day I've been waiting for," she said.

Zhang, a member of staff at the family planning authority of Yishui County in east China's Shandong Province, has an eight-year-old son. "But I'm looking forward to the second baby, so that after our death, they will not be lonely."

She even has a nickname for her second child, even though she had no idea when it would come to the world. The name is Tangdou, which means candy in Chinese. She hopes Tangdou is a girl.

Zhang told Xinhua that everyone in her office has been discussing the new policy, with some older women expressing their regret at not being able to seize the chance.

"Compared with people in cities like Beijing and Shanghai, we in counties and townships will find it more convenient to have a second child, because we are not so pressured by skyrocketing housing prices and fierce job competition," she said.

Zhang is not the only person now weighing startling new possibilities.

"Nobody will sleep tonight," wrote someone with the screen name "BailanduC" on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Two hours after the news was released, more than 30 million web users had viewed or commented on the topic.

The move will further ease the family planning policy in world's most populous country, which introduced the single-child policy in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child and most rural couples to two children, if the first child born was a girl.

Since its implementation, the one-child policy has resulted in an estimated reduction of some 400 million people in China, successfully containing over-population.

However, it has also been blamed for generating a number of social problems, especially a decreasing labor force and an aging population.

According to official data from 2014, China then had over 212 million people above the age of 60, and 137 million above 65, accounting for 15.5 percent and 10.1 percent of the population, respectively.

China's labor force in 2012 reached a peak of 940 million, and decreased to 930 million in 2014. It is estimated that the labor force will decrease by about 29 million in the decade ending in 2020.

The policy was later relaxed to say that any parents could have a second child if they were both only children.

"China's adjustments to the policy have been gradual, but the intervals between the adjustments have been short," said Zhang Xiaojiao, an analyst with Bank of China International.


However, not all young people want a second child.

At the beginning of 2014, China relaxed its family planning policy again to allow parents to have a second child if one of them was an only child.

According to China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, by the end of May, only 1.45 million of 11 million eligible couples had applied to have a second child.

Zhang Yi, vice director of the sociology institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that young people delaying marriage, rising living costs and better education had all resulted in people's reluctance to have more children.

Of the 166,000 people who had replied to a poll by by 2:30 p.m. on Friday, only 29 percent said they wanted to have a second child.

In another survey by Sina, around 71 percent of 1,500 respondents listed economic pressure as the main reason for their decision.

A Ms Jin in Beijing did a calculation.

The 37-year-old has a five-year-old child and the family monthly income is about 15,000 yuan (2,373 U.S. dollars).

Each month, she spends 3,000 yuan on the child, including kindergarten costs, food, clothes and toys. "Medical care is costly," she said. "If he gets ill, we spend several hundred yuan in hospital. He's learning the piano. Each lesson costs at least 250 yuan."

Chinese families want to offer the best education to their children. Many save to buy an apartment in the school district where their desired schools are located. But a second-hand apartment in Haidian District, where Beijing's schools are concentrated, costs between 60,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan per square meter.

Jin lives with her mother-in-law. "I am really exhausted taking care of the family. We're not going to introduce a new member," she said.


Zhai Zhenwu, president of the China Population Association, said the change of policy would have little impact in rural areas, where most residents are already allowed to have two children. Therefore, most of the additional population generated by the change, estimated to be one to two million annually, will be in cities.

"The growing population will soon create big demand for public services, especially more maternity facilities and kindergartens," Zhai said. "This is a challenge both for the government and society, which not only have to provide more such services but also better services to an increasingly demanding public."

Besides, having one more child will mean that women have to spend more time at home and less time at work. It is likely to reduce employers' willingness to hire women.

"The government must respond by enacting laws against gender discrimination in employment and adopting regulations to ensure sufficient benefits to women with two children, such as maternity leave," Zhai urged.

Zhang Jing from Shandong told Xinhua that her husband has similar worries, and doesn't want a second child. "He says he's too busy to take care of one more child," she said. "But I've got to convince him."

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