China to Broaden Two-Child Policy in 2 Years, Adviser Says

All Chinese couples will be allowed to have a second child in two years, said a researcher who advises the government on birth control policies.

“We will fully relax the policy” in two years after an experiment allowing some couples to have a second baby, Cai Fang, a vice director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the government’s research arm, said in a brief interview yesterday after a speech in Beijing. “People wish to choose the number of children they want to have, and they should be given the choice, at least for two children.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping relaxed China’s family-planning policy last year by allowing couples to have two children if either parent is an only child. The change failed to deliver a baby boom in the world’s most populous country -- less than 3 percent of the 11 million Chinese couples eligible for another child applied for permission in the first six months, according to data from the National Health & Family Planning Commission.

China had 690,000 couples seeking approval for a second child by the end of August and 620,000 were granted, according to a statement from the nation’s family planning commission.

Cai said allowing second children won’t significantly raise the fertility rate to bolster a population the United Nations predicts will start shrinking by 2030. China’s fertility rate of 1.66 per woman compares with the 2.1 level needed to sustain population levels, according to the UN.

Shrinking Population

China’s labor population -- people between 16 and 59 years old -- fell in 2012 and 2013, shrinking a worker pool that helped fuel three decades of rapid economic growth.

As China’s labor supply gets tighter, its potential growth rate will fall to an average of 6.2 percent annually from 2016 to 2020, Cai said.

Fan Gang, a former People’s Bank of China adviser, is more optimistic. Speaking at a forum in the central city of Wuhan today, Fan forecast a potential growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent a year till 2020.

— With assistance by Xiaoqing Pi

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