Aging Shanghai urges 2nd baby for eligible couples

Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:02am EDT
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By Emma Graham-Harrison and Yu Le

BEIJING (Reuters) - Shanghai is urging eligible couples to have two children as worries about the looming liability of an aging population outweighs concerns about over-stretched resources, a city official said on Friday.

The policy marks the first time in decades Chinese officials have actively encouraged procreation.

China's famous "one child" policy is actually less rigorous than its name suggests, and allows urban parents to have two offspring if they are both only children. Rural couples are allowed a second child if their first is a girl.

This is still the official line in most of China, but the financial hub of Shanghai is now rich enough to focus on a new concern -- the burden of an aging population of native-born Shanghainese.

More children would help relieve the heavy pressure from aging people, said Zhang Meixin, a spokesman for the Shanghai Municipal Population and Family Planning Commission, adding that the basic population policy had not changed.

"Shanghai's over-60 population already exceeds 3 million, or 21.6 percent of registered residents," he told Reuters by telephone. "That is already near the average figure of developed countries and is still rising quickly."

Most newly-married couples registered in Shanghai are both only children and so may have two children, Zhang said.

The number of couples eligible to have two children rose from 4,600 in 2005 to 7,300 in 2008, he added.   Continued...

<p>New-born babies are seen at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province August 8, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer</p>