Associated Press, January 24, 2007

Chinese ease the one-child policy

By Rowan Callick

CHINA no longer has a one-child policy, the Minister for Population Planning, Zhang Weiqing, said yesterday.

Detailing a new five-year plan, he said China has a ''multi-dimensional policy'', a bureaucratic way of explaining a gradual loosening of the family planning laws, particularly in rural areas.

Parts of China where the one-child policy remains, including major centres such as Beijing and Shanghai, comprise just 35.9 per cent of the population.

Most of the population -- 52.9 per cent -- are permitted to have a second child when the couple's first child is a girl.

A further 9.6 per cent of Chinese are permitted two children, regardless of gender, while 1.6 per cent -- chiefly Tibetans -- have no limit.

The new plan says that ''since families that practise family planning have made their contributions to the whole country, the Government should enable such families to enjoy priority in sharing the fruits of reform and development''.

For instance partners who each come from a one-child family are allowed to have two children, in all but six largely rural provinces -- in which only one partner needs to come from a one-child family to permit a second child.

In some provinces, parents with one child or two girls will now be entitled to a special pension of $100 per person per year to partly compensate them for the lack of sons to support them once they reach 60.

Mr. Zhang said that the plan aimed to stabilise China's fertility rate at about 1.8 children per couple, while also addressing the imbalance in the ratio of boys to girls.

He said this ratio was about 1.18:1, and was still widening as access to ultrasound testing -- leading to the abortion of girls -- increases, a development that ''presents a very severe challenge to the Government''.

He called for ''very strict punishment for abortions which have no medical purpose''.

<< Associated Press -- 1/24/07 >>

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