China is paving the way to SCRAP its two-child policy

China is paving the way to SCRAP its two-child policy that restricts how many offspring couples can have as it struggles with an ageing population

  • A state-run newspaper cited a draft civil code that could overhaul the policy
  • Any reference to ‘family planning’ has been omitted in the code, the paper said
  • China faces a demographic crisis with low birth rates and an ageing population 
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China, the world’s most populous nation, appears to be setting the stage to end its decades-long policy of determining the number of children that couples can have, a social media post by a state-run newspaper suggested.

All content on family planning has been omitted in a draft civil code being deliberated by top lawmakers on Monday, the Procuratorate Daily wrote in a post on its Weibo account. 

The report did not indicate whether the new policy would raise the limit or allow an unlimited number of children. 

China is paving the way to abolish its two-child policy as it faces a demographic crisis

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The wide-ranging code also includes a one-month ‘cooling off’ period in which couples filing for divorce can withdraw their case.   

Revisions to the draft civil code will be submitted to China’s annual parliamentary meeting in March 2020. 

China has loosened its family planning policy as its population greys, birth rates slow and its workforce declines. In 2016, the government allowed couples in urban areas to have two children, replacing a one-child policy enforced since 1979. 

However, the country’s birth rate last year dropped to a ‘shockingly low level’ instead, contrary to the government’s expectations.

For nearly 40 years, each Chinese couple was only allowed to have one baby

Concerns over an ageing population led to limited reforms in 2013, including allowing a second child for some couples in urban areas, but relatively few have taken up the opportunity

Last year, the number of births in mainland China slipped 3.5 per cent to 17.2 million, compared with 17.9 million in 2016; while the birth rate – the number of live births per thousand of population per year – dropped from 12.95 in 2016 to 12.43, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China. 

The surprising outcome has prompted the government to roll out policies including government subsidies and tax reductions in recent months for eligible couples in a bid to rejuvenate its economy. 

For example, all of the ‘second child’ in Xianning in central China could enjoy free tuition fees when they go to the kindergarten, according to a latest government document released in early August. 

‘It’s quite clear that the Chinese government is increasingly alarmed at the low birth rate and the failure to produce the expected boost in births by easing the one-child policy,’ Leta Hong Fincher, author of ‘Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China’, told AFP. 

News of the proposed changes lit up Chinese social media.

Speculation that China may further ease its two-child policy was sparked early this month when China Post unveiled the design of a stamp that features a family of three cheerful piglets

‘So they want us to have more babies and less divorces?’ wrote one user on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

‘The created generation, us only children, let’s gather together and prepare to work in our twilight years,’ another user wrote.

‘Having children is good, eases the government’s healthcare cost for the elderly.’

Speculation that China may further ease its two-child policy was sparked early this month when China Post unveiled the design of a stamp for release next year that features a family of two pigs and three cheerful piglets.

Debate on the policy was further stoked after two Chinese researchers proposed forcing couples with fewer than two children to pay into a ‘procreation fund’, an idea that was widely criticised.  

Why did China once have a one-child policy?

For nearly 40 years, each Chinese couple was only allowed to have one baby due to the country’s strict one-child policy (file photo)

In the 1950s after the Communist Party of China took over the country, Mao Zedong, the first Chairman of People’s Republic of China, believed in the phrase ‘there is strength in numbers’.

The powerful leader encouraged post-war Chinese women to give birth to more children. He awarded those who have more than five offspring the shining title of a ‘glorious mother’.

As a result, between 1950 and 1960, approximately 200 million people were born in China, more than a third of the nation’s population in its founding year 1949 (542 million).

In order to control the quickly expanding population, the State Council of China unveiled a revolutionary family-planning guideline in 1973, encouraging couples to have a maximum of two children, with a four-year gap between the pair.

A decade later, a mandatory one-child policy was launched with the aim of keeping the Chinese population under 1.2 billion at the end of the 20th century.

The ruthless policy was strictly enforced in urban areas.

If a woman was pregnant with her second child, she would be asked to abort it. 

If the couple decided to keep it, a fine would be applied – usually three times the family’s annual income.

Selective demographics in the country, such as rural residents and minority groups, however, were not bound by the policy. 

On January 1, 2014, the Chinese authorities launched a so-called ‘selective two-child policy’, which allowed couples to have a second baby as long as either of them is a single child.

China officially started its so-called ‘universal two-child policy’ on January 1, 2016. 

Chinese family-planning authorities predict that an extra three million babies would be born annually between 2016 and 2021 due to the shift of the policy.

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