Some couples in China -- notorious for its draconian one-child policy -- are now being urged to have two children, state media reported yesterday.
Couples in which both people are from single-child families are being specifically targeted in the drive.
They need extra encouragement because they bear the burden of looking after four parents alone, and they may be tempted by the crushing welfare burden to have no children at all, the China Daily said.
"With both parents coming from one-child families, these couples will bear full responsibility for looking after their parents and children," said Duan Jianhua (段建華), deputy director of family planning in Guangzhou.
"As a result, many prefer even having no children to having two," Duan said.
At present, Guangzhou has about 100,000 childless married couples, accounting for 11.3 percent of the total number of married couples, according to the paper.
"The policy aims to help reduce the pressure on younger members of society caused by increasing aging populations," Duan said.
China says the one-child policy, adopted around 1980, was necessary to ward off debilitating population growth.
It says about 400 million births have been prevented because of the policy, keeping the nation's population at 1.3 billion.
The report in yesterday's paper is an indication that government officials are increasingly addressing the negative side effects of the policy.
Another side effect is a huge surplus of male children, meaning that an estimated 30 million men will be unable to find women to marry.
This is because traditional values mean most couples prefer boys to girls. If they can only have one child, some use sex-selective abortions to ensure they have a boy.