Text: | Print|

Opinion: Help parents who've lost only child

2014-11-26 08:44 China Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

The Beijing municipal commission of health and family planning has just announced that since Jan 1, 2014 Beijing has increased the financial aid to mothers aged above 49 years old who have lost their only child from 200 yuan ($35.6) to 500 yuan a month, and their husbands from 160 yuan to 400 yuan. The move not only reflects the Beijing municipal government's concern for this special group, but also sets a good example for other local authorities to follow.

The number of families that the mothers are over 49 but have lost their only child in China is about 1 million, with an additional 76,000 expected to join them every year. And experts estimate their number could cross 10 million by 2050.

Families that have lost their only child are a new demographic problem for China, complicated by the declining birth rate. This is a price society has to pay for the strict family planning policy, which allows most families to have just one child.

Since 2003 the authorities have been providing special financial aid to parents who have lost their only child. Initially, such parents were paid 100 yuan a month per person, which has increased over time.

By providing additional financial aid to such parents, the Beijing local government has also deepened the reform in level-to-level fiscal expenditure. The Beijing municipal government will account for the entire special financial aid to families that have lost their only child until the end of this year. From next year, it will pay 85 percent of the special financial aid while district authorities have to provide the rest. This arrangement reflects the joint responsibility of public finance to provide a better life for the needy by dividing the financial burden among different levels of governments.

Nevertheless, the special arrangement needs further improvement. First, the "special financial aid" in essence is compensation. One-child families are by nature risk families, mainly because of the strict family planning policy. And since the authorities are responsible for the risk, they are liable to pay compensation to the "victim" families. But the responsibility of paying compensation should also be shared by the grassroots governing bodies, and the amount should be in accordance with local fiscal conditions.

Second, there should not be any difference between the compensation paid to urban and rural parents who lose their only child, because rural people too have the right to share the fruits of China's economic development. Also, the authorities should make efforts to guarantee such parents' livelihood after retirement. In this context, the National Health and Family Planning Commission's decision in December 2013 to provide 340 yuan a month as compensation for 49-plus-year-old urban mothers who lose their only child and restrict the amount to 170 yuan for those in rural areas goes against social equality.

Third, all parents who lose their only child should receive compensation from the government. Even parents who have a second child or adopt a child after losing their first one deserve the financial support - the amount, of course, could be smaller. Since parents who lose their only child suffer from financial difficulties and emotional trauma, the special social security system, discussed in the preceding lines, could make them feel that society does care for their well-being.

Fourth, the authorities should take measures to ensure families that have lost their only child can sustain themselves and overcome the shock of their loss. There is need, therefore, to set up some kind of association to provide psychological consultation and livelihood support for such families.

A China Family Planning Association survey in 2011, which covered more than 1,500 families in 14 provinces that had lost their only child, found that many of them were facing difficulties in their daily lives related mostly to healthcare, and more than half of the families' income was lower than the local average.

About half of the parents who have lost their only child suffer from depression, 70-80 percent of them suffer from psychological trauma and mental disorder, and more than 60 percent have chronic diseases. When parents who lose their only child get older or fall sick, they can at best approach neighbors for help. Given this situation, the authorities should provide special aid for elderly parents who have lost their only child and take care of them through welfare organizations.

The author is a professor at the Population Research Institute of Peking University.

Comments (0)
Most popular in 24h
  Archived Content
Media partners:

Copyright ©1999-2018 Chinanews.com. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.