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Changing one-child policy will not lead to baby boom: expert

2013-11-05 10:00 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Changing the one-child policy to allow couples to have more children will not necessarily lead to a baby boom, a population expert said.

Liang Zhongtang, a population expert at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the country's population wouldn't "explode" if families can have more children since the current birth rate is only 1.18 while it is two in the US and 1.8 in Britain, the National Business Daily reported yesterday.

He cited the example of Changdao County in Shandong Province. The county comprises 32 islands with 40 villages and a population of less than 50,000. In 1985, the local government allowed farmers to have two children. The only restriction was couples had to wait at least five years after the first child was born to have another.

"Having a child is a complicated social behavior restricted by economics, geography and the concept of value," Liang was quoted as saying. "The Changdao example confirms this. The long-term family planning policy has seriously impacted the availability of labor and reasonable economic distribution. It should be changed."

Changdao officials told the newspaper the family planning policy was loosened gradually.

In 1980, couples were allowed to have a second child under certain circumstances. This included if the first child had a serious disability, either one of the couple had remarried and their spouse was married for the first time, or they belonged to an ethnic minority.

According to Ying Hongyan, a family planning official in Changdao, there was a baby boom in the first few years after the government removed the second child ban, but it was short-lived.

Between 1981 and 1984, 2,241 babies were born in the county, the report said. In the following three years 2,914 babies were born.

The number of newborns started dropping in 1988. Less than 500 children were born in 1991 and births stabilized around 600 in following years.

The birth gender ratio was always under 104, which means 104 boys born for every 100 girls — in line with the desired norm of 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls.

The county's growth rate was minus 0.92 per 1,000 in 2006 and the figure has remained in negative territory ever since.

By 2009, about 33 percent of the county's families had opted not to have a second child. Of those families, half only have one girl, the report said.

In the past two years, less than 200 babies were born annually.

Some couples in the county said they decided not to have a second child because they prefer favorable government policies on medical treatment, children's education, employment and financial support for families with only one child.

"While these favorable policies dissuade some families from having a second child, most stick to one child because of the costs involved," Ying was quoted as saying.

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