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Looser family planning policy mulled

The National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) has said adjustments will be made to the country's family planning policy at "an appropriate time," amid recent speculation on a loosening of the policy.

The announcement was made briefly in a plan published on the NHFPC's website, without revealing details.

It came after a Friday report which said that couples, of whom at least one person is an only child, will be allowed to give birth to a second child at the end of 2013. The 21st Century Business Herald also quoted sources as saying that all families will be able to have a second child after 2015.

Responding to the report, Mao Qun'an, NHFPC spokesman, said Friday that the plans to improve the policy were still being studied, adding that China will persist with the family planning policy as a basic national policy.

"It won't take too long to see the loosening based on the comments made by the government," Li Jianmin, a professor with the Institute of Population and Development Studies at Nankai University, told the Global Times Tuesday.

In a research note sent to the Global Times over the weekend, Lu Ting and Zhi Xiaojia, China economists with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said they believe that the report is reliable, as the new leadership in China will use the abolition of the one-child policy as an opportunity to "show their determination in making changes."

They also predicted that the window for the reform could be around the Communist Party of China's annual plenary meeting in the fourth quarter of this year or around the two sessions in the first quarter of next year.

A similar relaxation proposal was previously seen in a draft of the 12th Five-Year Plan on population in January 2010, which proposed a pilot scheme.

But the draft was shelved due to some objections, the Beijing Times reported.

"The government will listen to opinions from different sides and has always been prudent in changing the family planning policy. The policy will not be changed until plenty of research suggests doing so," Li said.

"The reason for changing the policy is to tackle the ageing problem," Song Jian, a demographic professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

The authorities expect that by 2020, 234 million Chinese will be above the age of 60, and around 2050, one in four Chinese will be over 65.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch research also estimated that about 9.5 million babies will be born as a result of this reform to the one-child policy.

"China will not stick to the family planning policy for good. The policy will be abandoned sooner or later, but it won't happen in a day," Song said.

While many experts applauded the trend of loosening the policy, others claim that it is not an appropriate time for the government to do so.

Hou Dongmin, a professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Beijing Times that China should not change the present policy as now is the perfect time to reduce the huge Chinese population.

Hou said the proper time to adjust the policy should be in the second half of the century.

However, the issue is an academic one for many Chinese parents.

"The intense working pressure, as well as the high cost, has already left me exhausted taking care of my only son. We can't afford another kid even if we are allowed to," a Beijing mother surnamed Li, 29, whose husband has a brother, told the Global Times Tuesday.
 

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