Twos Company, Ones AffordableOne Child or Two?By staff reporter LTHE one-child policy, sternly administered since the late...
criteria to have two children take up this privilege. Many dont want children at all, often for economic reasBased on his ...
also members of the National Peoples Congress -- the Chinese legislature -- that have raised the controversproposal of per...
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  1. 1. Twos Company, Ones AffordableOne Child or Two?By staff reporter LTHE one-child policy, sternly administered since the late 1970s, has successfully controlled the birthrate inworlds most populous country. Among the privileged few that are exempt from the policy are spouses thatthemselves single children. Couples in this category are now of an age to start a family. This raises two quewill they act upon their franchised right to a second child? And if so, does this presage an alarming surge inbirthrate?Second Child Advocacy“ The family planning policy allows two children for husbands and wives that are both the only child in therespective families. We hope all such couples will indeed decide to have a second child,” states Li Yunli , dchief of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Population and Family Planning. Lis opportune reiteration oalmost forgotten aspect of the Chinese family planning policy and encouragement to eligible couples to probased on the demographic assumption that four-person family units will allay the potential threat of adisproportionately large “gray” population in the capital.This policy amendment provides a priviliged alternative to adult single-child couples across the nation, oneXiao Yang, 28, and his wife. “We want two children, ideally a boy and a girl,” says Xiao. He and his wife aagreed that no child of theirs should be subjected to the loneliness of growing up without sibling companiothat they both experienced.In a survey carried out by of 6,007 single children, born from 1980 to 1989, 61.3 percent lamenteabsence of a sibling during childhood with whom to share the joys and sorrows of growing up. A further 66percent had lived in hopes that their parents would have more children. The aching solitude they experiencethroughout their childhood, which in many cases persisted through to adulthood, made 46.1 percent of respfirm in their resolve to have two children.But there are other, more practical reasons for wanting a second child. Cheng Jun of Beijing has two brothethe elder of two daughters. She is thus bound to abide by the one-child policy, which is a source of great woexplains, “The responsibility for taking care of our parents is shared by all four of us. But when I grow old,daughter will be expected to take care of her in-laws as well as my husband and me. It will be a heavy burdher and her husband.” This is a common predicament for adult single children.Second Child JittersFrom January to July 2006, 7,100 single children born in the 1980s -- 6,100 women and 1,000 men -- out oGuangzhous 300,000 one-child households joined in the ranks of happy newlyweds in the provinces eightdistricts. Among them there were nearly 900 single-child couples that were eligible to have two children. Tcould reasonably be expected to augur a rise in the southern citys urban population. Yet a negligible proposuch couples actually apply for permission to have two children , according to XieAnguo , deputy chief of tGuangzhou Municipal Population and Birth Control Department. Xie confirms, “Few of the couples that fu
  2. 2. criteria to have two children take up this privilege. Many dont want children at all, often for economic reasBased on his observations, Xie is doubtful whether the opportunity available to single-child couples to incrtheir families will make any appreciable difference to Guangzhous, or Chinas, birthrate.The sad fact of the matter is that these days, children are one of lifes greatest luxuries. Since giving birth tonine months ago, Lanzhi now longs for a daughter. But unless a win on the lottery or some other windfall cher way, she must be content to be the mother of one. Lanzhis pregnancy and delivery cost her RMB 10,00pays out more than RMB 500 each month for milk and other nutrients and RMB 1,200 for a nanny. Takingaccount clothes, diapers and other necessities, her monthly baby bills exceed RMB 2,000 -- more or less hesalary. And these expenses will take a huge leap once her son starts school.In a on-line poll survey of 20,000 couples in the relevant age group, “financial pressure” was thecited by 66.89 percent of respondents for opting to have just one child. Research carried out by the GuangzMunicipal Population and Birth Control Department also revealed exorbitant costs as the main reason whysingle-child couples stop short of having a second child. This is understandable in view of the results of a ssociologist XuAnqi of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Xu concludes that raising a chicitys downtown Xuhui District costs, on average, RMB 490,000. When this figure was quoted to couples wchildren in a cross section of medium and large cities, it was affirmed as actual as well as projected.Other reasons for reluctance to reproduce that emerged in the Guangzhou Municipal Population and Birth CDepartment survey were pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” and the desire to prolong marital romancefreedom. Zhang Jun has been married for three years, and has no immediate plans to reproduce. “How canprovide for a child when we can barely manage by ourselves?” is the argument she and her husband quite pproduce in response to their parents plaintive yearning for grandchildren. But when taking into account thelively social life of theaters, nightclubs and weekend excursions with friends, their plea of poverty rings hoWhen pressed, Zhang admits: “Once we have a child, all the fun we have now will have to stop. Its a dauntprospect.”This attitude comes as no surprise to Prof. Zhou Changhong of the Nanjing Center for Population ProgramManagement. He cites a survey among people of the relevant age group in Shanghai. Although 40 percent sthey would have a second child, only 20 to 30 percent actually did. Prof. Zhou concludes, “Speaking fromexperience, I dont think the birth prerogative for single-child couples will adversely affect the current famiplanning policy. In general, the higher a couples education and income level, the lower the likelihood of thwanting more than one child. This phenomenon has been attested worldwide.”Birth Control Will Remain VigilantThe decision whether or not to relax the birth control policy is now being taken at provincial government leBleak prospects at old age for this new adult section of the population have prompted certain cities to remoeliminate rulings that hinder eligible couples from having two children. Couples in Shanghai, for instance,longer required to wait four years after the birth their first child before having a second. Other provinces, hohave taken the opposite tack. Henan Province has a population of 100 million -- the largest of any other prohas gone to the extreme of excluding single-child adult couples from the two child criteria.Couples in the more affluent social sector are, understandably, keen advocates of the second child policy. Targument is that their second child would benefit from the absence of financial pressure in the household. T
  3. 3. also members of the National Peoples Congress -- the Chinese legislature -- that have raised the controversproposal of permitting couples that have been through higher education to have a second child. Li Yunli ,mentioned above, has publicly refuted the implication of this proposal that couples who have been througheducation give birth to more intelligent children. The government is unmoved by both arguments.There are certain scholars that dismiss the two-child policy as a means of offsetting the problem of the aginpopulation. Yu Xuejun , a divisional chief at the State Commission of Population and Family Planning, isparticularly skeptical of the benefits of two-child families in this regard. In his view: “The problem of the apopulation cannot be solved by producing more children. Higher economic growth and a more effective socsecurity system are the answer.”Couples that qualify for a second child under Chinas current family planning policy:1. Spouses, medically fit to procreate, whose first child is diagnosed as disabled and unfit foreveryday labor by a pediatric medical organization above prefecture level.2. Couples where one spouse has a child from a previous marriage.3. Couples where both spouses have an only child from previous marriages but both haverelinquished the ir rights to the custody of their respective only children.4. Spouses that, despite one or both having been diagnosed as infertile by medical or health careorganizations at county level, bear a child after legally adopting one.5. Spouses who are both the only child of their respective families.6. Couples where either spouse has worked as a miner or deep-sea diver for five years or more.7. Couples where both spouses are rural residents and whose first child is a girl.