Soups, statues and soothsayers in demand as China eases one-child law

Mon Dec 2, 2013 4:59pm EST
 
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By Adam Jourdan

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - In a dimly-lit arcade in downtown Shanghai, shopkeeper Xia Zihan holds out a glinting, yellow-glass carving of the fertility goddess Guanyin, a range she says is starting to sell well after China relaxed its single-child policy last month.

"Since the news allowing a second child, we've already asked our factory to increase production of the Guanyin statues," said Xia, adding she expected to see around a 10-20 percent increase in demand for the figurines that cost around one thousand yuan ($160) each.

Beijing said last month it would allow millions of families to have two children, the most radical relaxation of its strict one-child policy in close to three decades.

With an estimated bump of up to 10 percent in the number of births per year, the demand for maternal healthcare is bound to surge, a lift for private hospital operators who are increasing their share of China's gigantic healthcare market.

Healthcare providers like Singapore-based Raffles Medical Group Ltd, Malaysia's IHH Healthcare Bhd and U.S. healthcare firm Chindex International Inc already operate in China.

"I think for the short-term we can expect some kind of rebound of the fertility rate as women rush to have more babies in the next few years," said Peng Xizhe, a demographics expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.

The new rules, which will roll out gradually around China, will allow couples in which just one parent is an only child to have a second baby, part of a plan to raise fertility rates and ease the financial burden of China's rapidly ageing population.

This would see an extra annual one million or so births on top of the current 16 million each year, substantial in itself but marginal when compared to China's near 1.4 billion population. Still, the extra births are close to the number of people in a city like Dallas, Texas.   Continued...

 
Nurses show a pair of fraternal twins to their mother (bottom) after they were born at the IVF centre of a hospital in Xi'an, Shaanxi province August 16, 2012. BREUTERS/Stringer