In China, signs that one-child policy may be coming to an end

One child policy

China could be considering relaxing its harsh one-child policy because of women like Hu Yanqin, who lives in a village at the edge of the Gobi desert.

When Hu married a construction worker seven years ago, she knew she was going to have only one child, although the area where she lives, the Jiuquan region in northwestern Gansu province, is one of the rare places in China where those living in rural areas have been free to have two children since 1985.

"Those people with two children are those who are better off," said Hu, 32, dropping her six-year-old son off at kindergarten. "The majority of people in my village only have one child."

Advocates of reforming China's one-child policy use Hu and millions like her as evidence that relaxing the law will not lead to a surge of births in the world's most populous nation.

Jiuquan has a birth rate of 8 to 9 per 1,000 people, lower than the national average of about 12 births per 1,000 people.

The policy, implemented since 1980 alongside reforms that have led to rapid economic expansion, is increasingly being seen as an impediment to growth and the harbinger of social problems.

The country's labour force, at about 930 million, will start declining in 2025 at a rate of about 10 million a year, projections show. Meanwhile, China's elderly population will hit 360 million by 2030, from about 200 million in 2013.

"If this goes on, there will be no taxpayers, no workers and no caregivers for the elderly," said Gu Baochang, a demography professor at Renmin University.

China's top statistician, Ma Jiantang, said last Friday that the country should look into "an appropriate and scientific family planning policy" after data showed that the country's working-age population, aged 15 to 59, fell for the first time.

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