Population policy should be eased: report

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/2 0:08:40

High education cost a key factor behind falling fertility rate


China should further relax, and even abandon, its family planning policy in order to avoid the low-fertility trap, and a reduction in education cost is essential to encourage more couples to have a second child, a leading think tank suggested in a recent report.

"The two-child policy is not the end of the family planning policy adjustment," said the Green Book of Population and Labor published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on Wednesday.

"China may need to further relax the limitation on reproduction and even abandon the policy completely to avoid the low-fertility trap," it said.

China's family planning policy, which was introduced in the 1970s, limited most urban couples to having one child. China's top legislature eased the one-child policy at the end of 2013 by allowing couples to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child.

In October 2014, China decided to allow all couples to have a second child to balance the population development and tackle the challenge of an aging society.

"China's current demographic structure is severely distorted, as the country now faces problems such as low fertility, an aging society and gender imbalance. It may hinder economic development and social stability in the long run," Mu Guangzong, a professor at Peking University's Institute of Population Research, told the Global Times.

According to the data from the World Bank, China's average birth rate in 2014 was 1.6 per woman.

But lifting of birth control alone cannot effectively solve the problem, because there are several factors - such as high cost of education - which inhibit people's desire to have more children, Mu said, urging the government to find a comprehensive solution to avoid the low-fertility trap.

The CASS report stated that while the new family planning policy can raise birth rate, the growth of population has its own logic and the policy's influence will be limited in raising the fertility rate. It may even have a negative effect, for instance, on education, according to the report.

The CASS report said that the two-child policy will worsen the inequality in the distribution of education resources because such resources in China are very limited, and the second child of prosperous families will take up the limited spots in high-quality educational institutions, leaving fewer opportunities for children from middle class or grass roots to avail high-quality education.

The report suggests that the government should increase funding for compulsory education, ensure equal access to education, raise availability of high-quality education, and balance the distribution of resources.



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