China redefines its one-child regulation

Posted: 14 January 2003

Hubei has become the latest province in China to revise its birth-control policy since the amended national family planning law came into force in September (2002).

The new provincial policy has been approved by the central government and will be put in place January (2003).

Explaining the revisions, an official with the Hubei Family Planning Commission, said: "Couples in which both the husband and the wife are only children will be allowed to have a second child, provided that their first child is a girl. It doesn't matter whether they live in the towns or rural villages." However, rural couples in which one partner is disabled will not be allowed another child, as it would be considered an added burden on the family, the provincial government said.

The official refused to comment on how many more couples would be eligible to have a second child under the new policy, but said he expected Hubei's birth rate to stay the same.

"We have always allowed couples in exceptional circumstances to have a second child. It's just that we've modified the exceptions," he said.

In September 2002, the Beijing government implemented the amended Population and Family Planning Law which, 22 years earlier, set in stone the one-child policy. The revised law has introduced "social compensation fees" to cover the cost to society of an additional child plus heavy fines for parents with unapproved children. It also gave provincial governments the freedom to allow certain couples to have a second child.

A spokeswoman for the State Family Planning Commission said she had no official statistics on how many provinces had revised their birth-control policies since the new law was implemented, but insisted the country's family planning policy had not changed.

"The central government always upholds its policy, but details and exceptions can vary from one province to another," the official said.

New goals set

In a further move in January 2003, at the National Work Conference on Family Planning in Beijing, China announced a three-part family planning programme with a goal oflimiting the country's population to 1.33 billion people by 2005.

The plan, designed to ease "the imbalance between human resources and China's economic development," aims to keep the population from exceeding 1.4 billion by 2010 and 1.5 billion by 2020.

The family planning strategy is part of a government effort to raise China's per-capita gross domestic product to $3,000 by 2020. In order to achieve the population goals, the government plans to set up additional family planning centres, increase the availability of contraceptive services and maintain its 22-year-old one-child policy.

"Only if these goals are realized, will the imbalance in development between the nation's population and economy be slowed down. Then the nation will achieve the goal of keeping the nation's population under 1.6 billion by 2050 with zero growth," said Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the State Family Planning Commission.

Previous efforts at family planning enabled China to reduce its growth rate to less than one per cent in 1998 and to achieve its goal of keeping the population below 1.3 billion by 2002.

Source: IPPF News, December 5, 2002, and Business Daily Update, Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report,January 9, 2003.Related links:China's one-child policy enters new phaseChina's quiet revolution in reproductive health