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P one child policy's days are numbered

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  • 1. One-child policys days are numberedJohn GarnautSeptember 13, 2010Growth stunted ... a child wails while being vaccinated against measles at a clinic in Hefei, Anhui province. Population advisers say anend to the policy is inevitable.BEIJING: Chinas sometimes brutal one-child policy is expected to be loosened next year as policyadvisers come to grips with the implications of having one of the worlds most rapidly ageing populations.Chinese experts have told the Herald five provinces are to relax the policy next year and the trial mayspread nationwide by 2013 or 2014, at which point the countrys working-age population will havestopped growing and the policys demographic dividend will have become a headwind.Already the one-child policy has accelerated the onset and severity of labour shortages in coastalprovinces. And an associated rise in abortions and even infanticide has twisted the gender balance so thatlast year there were 119 boys born for every 100 girls.While no official announcement has been made, a number of family planning experts expect a pilot policywill soon permit a second birth in families where at least one spouse is an only child. Next year they willrelax the policy in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, said He Yafu, anindependent demographic expert with connections to the Family Planning Commission.In 2012 I expect it will be extended to Shanghai, Beijing and other places, and I am personally optimisticit will be extended to the whole country in 2013 or 2014. While recent media debate has focused on theeconomic costs of an ageing population, Mr He said other problems stemmed from the fact the policy wasforced. In the early 1980s officials missed their birth targets - a consequence of failing to predict thedemographic echo of a baby boom that followed the great famine of the late-1950s - the policy morphedinto an instrument of tyranny in many areas. Graeme Smith, a rural China expert at the University ofTechnology, Sydney, has traced the social and administrative costs of this policy in Anhui and Zhejiangprovinces.Family planning is a huge drain on resources and it shapes the coercive character of local governmenteven more than land disputes do, Dr Smith said.An agricultural officer who would be going out recommending new varieties of rice ends up chasingdown pregnant women or checking on IUD devices. While enforcing the policy has become a drag ongovernment morale, Dr Smith said it had also become an essential source of income as women paid largesums in fines and bribes to officials for exceeding their birth quotas.The one-child policy was officially implemented as a 30-year interim measure in 1980 but since then theFamily Planning Commission has entrenched itself as one of the most powerfulbureaucracies.Implementing the policy has become a leading criterion for official promotions.Government advisers told the Herald that efforts to loosen the policy earlier this year were killed by thecommission. But they also said gradual reform and ultimately an end to the policy was inevitable.After 2025 the working age population is expected to shrink by about 10 million people a year, placinghuge strains on the social security system and crimping the potential growth in gross domestic product.By2050 India is expected to have grown to 1.75 billion people compared with Chinas 1.44 billion, accordingto the Population Reference Bureau. Chinas current population is 1.34 billion, and Indias is 1.19 billion.http://www.smh.com.au/world/onechild-policys-days-are-numbered-20100912-1571g.html

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