China May Let More Families Have Second Child, Xinhua Says

China is studying whether to relax its one-child policy to allow more couples to have two children, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Policy makers are considering a change that would allow a second baby if either parent was a sole child, according to Xinhua. Currently both parents must be only children to qualify for a second birth. No time frame for a decision was mentioned in the report.

China started its one-child policy in the late 1970s to alleviate poverty and cap population growth, imposing fines for violations. Government researchers last year called on the nation to ease the one-child policy as soon as possible to cope with an aging population and labor shortages.

“We believe the reform-minded President Xi and Premier Li will use the opportunity of abolishing the one-child policy to build up their authority, show their determination in making changes and convince the Chinese people that they do have a roadmap for reforms,” Hong Kong-based Bank of America Corp. economists Lu Ting and Zhi Xiaojia wrote in a report today, referring to Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang.

The window for reform could be around the ruling Communist Party’s annual meeting in the fourth quarter or the annual session of the National People’s Congress in the first quarter of 2014, they said.

More Babies

The government is also studying whether to let all couples, regardless of whether they are only children, have a second baby after 2015, the 21st Century Business Herald reported yesterday, citing an unidentified person.

Bank of America estimates the reforms would lead to around 9.5 million additional births, based on calculations and assumptions using a 2005 population survey and census data.

National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman Mao Qunan was cited by Xinhua as saying China needs long-term family planning as fundamental national policy because population pressure continues to have an impact on the economy, society, environment and natural resources.

At the same time, one of the major tasks of the commission, which was formed in March through the merger of the Ministry of Health and the National Population and Family Planning Commission, is to improve family planning policy, Mao was quoted as saying.

Relaxed Policy

When China’s one-child policy was first introduced, it limited most urban couples to one child and allowed a second for most rural couples if their first child was a girl. Ethnic minority groups were exempted from the restrictions.

China relaxed the policy in all provinces except Henan around 2007, allowing a second birth when both parents were only children, Xinhua said in its report yesterday. Henan, a province in central China, introduced the change in 2011, it said.

The restriction on family size will cut the number of 15-to 24-year-olds, the mainstay of factories that have driven China’s growth for two decades, by 27 percent to 164 million by 2025, according to United Nations estimates. During the same time, the number of people aged over 65 will surge 78 percent to 195 million, according to its projections.

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