Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 6 News List

China’s two-child policy to add 3 million babies a year

DISPUTED:Officials said that the policy change would boost the economy, but women have been reluctant to have more children after previous such liberalizations

AFP, BEIJING

About 3 million extra babies will be born each year after Beijing abolished its hugely controversial one-child policy to allow all couples to have two offspring, officials said yesterday.

Decades of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement left the world’s largest population — 1.37 billion people — aging rapidly and with a shrinking workforce that has heightened the challenges of slowing economic growth.

The rule change, announced after a key Chinese Communist Party meeting last month, is to allow 90 million more women a second child, National Health and Family Planning Commission Vice Minister Wang Peian (王培安) said.

However, half are aged between 40 and 49, he added, limiting their desire or ability to bear children.

Some might be “reluctant” to have more children, he said, while some might be “unable to give birth” even if they wanted to.

Before the change, 50 million women were already entitled to have a second baby under various exemptions — rural families whose first child is a girl, couples where one is an only child and ethnic minorities, he said.

The announcement of the change prompted speculation of a baby boom giving the economy a boost, but analysts said that many Chinese couples do not want more children, particularly given the expense, and the effects of the change remain unclear.

Relatively few have taken up the opportunities presented by reforms allowing some people more children in recent years.

There were nearly 17 million births in China last year and Wang said the liberalization would see about 3 million more babies each year over the next five years.

It would add a total of about 30 million people to the labor force by 2050, he told a briefing.

“The across-the-board two-child policy in the short term would drive consumption for housing, education, healthcare, housekeeping and daily necessities, stimulate investment in relevant sectors and increase job offerings,” he said.

“It would have even stronger positive impact on economic expansion in the long run,” he said, adding China’s “potential growth rate” was expected to rise by 0.5 percentage points.

However, after the policy change was announced, economist Edward Hugh said: “There is a huge time lag, 15 years plus, before this has any impact.”

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