Changes to China’s strict one-child policy, which will allow more parents to have a second child, will begin to roll out early next year, state media said.
China announced on Friday 15th November 2013 that it will relax its decades-long one-child policy and abolish labor camps in an effort to improve human rights, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Officials had said earlier both controversial policies were under review.
Even those who know little about China have likely heard about its one-child policy. China’s family planning laws require most families living in urban areas to have one child.
The policy will be slightly relaxed so that couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents was an only child. Currently, both parents must be sole children to be eligible for a second child.
The one-child policy, though applauded by many for slowing down China’s population growth, has been widely criticized for resulting in forced abortions and hefty fines that are sometimes used to enforce it.
Some critics say the law hurts China’s elderly, who typically rely on their children for support in old age, and even constrains economic growth as the working age population begins to decline.
“Since the policy now allows it, I will definitely have a second child,” one 25-year-old woman in Beijing said. “It’s too lonely for a single child.”
“When I get married, I would prefer having two children as I’m the only child in my family. My childhood was a bit boring,” another man said.
A third commuter also praised the changes: “It’s a great new policy. Raising three kids is a bit stressful, but two are just perfect.”
The policy change is expected to go into force in some areas of China in the first quarter of 2014, Yang Wenzhuang, a director at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, told the official Xinhua news agency.
Authorities were in the process of calculating the number of eligible couples, Yang said.
China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, is expected to formally approve the new policy later this week.
The policy move has buoyed baby-related stocks and has seen a rush for fertility-boosting products.
China would eventually scrap family planning restrictions, but was unlikely to abandon its family planning policy in the near term, a senior official said last month.
Xinhua cited members of parliament debating the easing of the rules on Tuesday as saying that it was important the country continues to enforce family planning and that people who violate the rules are punished.
“China still has a large population. This has not changed. Many of our economic and social problems are rooted in this reality,” Xinhua quoted member of parliament Jiang Fan as saying. “We could not risk letting the population grow out of control.”
China, with nearly 1.4 billion people, is the world’s most populous country. The government says the policy of limiting families to one child, which covers 63 per cent of the population, has averted 400 million births since 1980.