Chinese city raises child limit

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

China's long enforced the so-called one-child policy. But officials in Shanghai say they're ready to encourage some couples to have TWO children. Anchor Katy Clark finds out more from Yiyi Lu Research Fellow for the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.

KATY CLARK: I'm Katy Clark. This is The World. For decades, China has limited population growth by limiting the number of children couples could have. It's referred to as the one-child policy ? though there were many exceptions to this rule. Now, officials in Shanghai say they're ready to encourage couples to have two children. YiYi Lu is a Research Fellow for the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham. Ms. Lu, this seems like a major change. Is it, really?

YIYI LU: Actually, it is not a major change because as you already said this policy ? it has many exceptions for people who have more than one child. From the very beginning, it was decided that if a couple, the husband and wife, they're both the only child themselves, then they can have two children. So it has always been allowed. In that sense, it's not new. What is new is that even in the past, if the couple can have two children, the government encouraged you to have one. Now, they're changing that. They're saying, ?Well actually we encourage you to have two.?

CLARK: And I mean, Shanghai officials, as I understand it, they're sort of going around and the couples who qualify for this, they're slipping pamphlets under their doors and things like that, so they're actually trying to publicize these exceptions more perhaps than they ever have before. Is that the case?

LU: Yes. I think this actually reflects a broader debate going on in China for a few years, which is now you can feel the pressure of the aging of the population. More and more people are retired, and less people are entering the workforce. So scholars have been saying that we need to stop the one child policy at some point in order to ease the pressure. So the debate has been going on, and the Shanghai practice kind of reflects at the local level, at least in Shanghai, they feel time has already come actively, and cultural people have too. But at the national level, although there has been debate, so far no decision has been taken that we need to officially expand or reverse the policy.

CLARK: And I guess, too, it should be noted that you talked about how if both of the parents are only children, they can have two children, and that's the way it's been all along. And we're entering a phase now where most people of child-bearing age are only children themselves. So therefore they would be allowed to have 2 children anyway.

LU: Yes, exactly. Although, another interesting trend is that in cities, especially big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, many young people don't want to have any children. So I think that's also a factor why the government's actually encouraging them to have children.

CLARK: I understand that the Chinese really need this change, since more than 8 percent of Chinese people are over 65, and only one-third have a pension. It seems like there's something of a crisis, a demographic crisis going on with the aging population in China?

LU: Yes. This issue has been going on for years, but I think the policymakers also weigh this with other considerations. There is still the problem of overpopulation because the population of China are not evenly distributed. They tend to populate in certain areas. So I think they're weighing the pros and cons, and the decision so far has been the policies do need to be in place for some more years.

CLARK: Has there been any official statement from the Chinese government as a whole? I mean, ?were talking about Shanghai here. What about for the rest of China? It seems as if what happens in Shanghai could easily start to happen across rest of the country. Could China be facing a big baby boom?

LU: I think there won't be any reaction either way, whether to praise it or to criticize it, because as we've established, it's actually not in any way changing the current policy, but it hasn't amount to national level official change of policy yet.

CLARK: Yiyi Lu is with the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in England. Thank you very much.

LU: Thanks.