Three family planning departments abolished

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/11 23:53:40

Department set up to care for elderly

China has scrapped all three family planning-related departments as part of reforms in the country's top health body, which demographers said is the latest move to further boost fertility rate, though they are divided on whether the family planning policy should be fully abolished. 

According to the plan released on Monday, the previous three family planning-related departments under the National Health Commission (NHC) were scrapped and a new department, entitled the "Department of Demographic Surveillance and Family Development," would handle family planning-related work.

The previous three departments were responsible for "grass-roots instructions," family development-related issues and policy implementation in the migrant population.

The three departments were established during a 2013 revamp to show China would enhance family planning policies, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Tuesday.

The revamp shows that China no longer regards family planning as a major mission, Liang Zhongtang, a former national political adviser and retired research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

The new department will provide support to those who need help in the one-child policy, such as couples who lost their only child, demographers predicted.  

No more control?

"The revamp is a sign that China will end further restrictions on childbirth and will fully relax the family planning policy," Lu Jiehua, a sociologist at Peking University, told the Global Times.

The first step is to scrap the second-child policy and end childbirth limitations, which should come as early as in 2019, Lu said.

Echoing Lu, Yi Fuxian, a research fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he believes China will abandon its family planning policy in 2019.

However, the idea of setting no childbirth limits also faces opposition among the public and policymakers, who are concerned that scrapping the policy would maily boost fertility in underdeveloped regions and increase the burden on poverty alleviation, said Lu, who is also a member of the standing council of the China Family Planning Association.

China will not scrap the policy, Lu stressed. The policy will continue as the country still needs more incentives to boost fertility, which remains low after China began allowing families to have a second child since 2016, he said.

China has yet to release its 2017 fertility rate. It was 1.7 in 2016, a rate that experts previously said is on the red line, going by the Low Fertility Trap Hypothesis.

It's dangerous if those "encouraging policies" turn into mandatory measures for a family to have more than one child, Liang said.

Policymakers should be creating an environment to encourage fertility, instead of setting a minimum or maximum number of children, Liang noted.   

Healthier senior citizens

Another highlight of the NHC revamp is the establishment of a new department in charge of the health issues of senior citizens, Lu said.

The department will be involved in drafting and implementing policies to address issues in an aging society and to serve the health needs of senior citizens, according to the plan.

The change was made to make sure senior citizens in China enjoy a healthy life with sound support from society and the government, and would not become a factor in social instability, experts said.

The proportion of the population aged 65 and over in China will rise to around 18.5 percent in 2030, and around 32 percent in 2050, Yi said.

If the government cannot provide senior citizens with a sound social security system, elderly crimes and suicides will increase dramatically, Yi warned.


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