Fewer Chinese than expected want second child: state media

Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:15am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - A year after China eased its one-child policy, fewer people than expected have applied for permission to have a second child, state media said on Monday, raising concerns among scholars that China could face a demographic crisis as birth rates decline.

The figures cited by the China Youth Daily will add to growing calls for the government to scrap all family planning restrictions as China faces the prospect of becoming the first country in the world to get old before it gets rich.

While China is the world's most populous nation with 1.34 billion people, many analysts say the one-child policy has shrunk China's labor pool, hurting economic growth.

For the first time in decades the working age population fell in 2012.

In late 2013, China said it would ease family planning restrictions to allow millions of families to have two children in the country's most significant liberalization of its strict one-child policy in about three decades.

Under the reform, couples in which one parent is an only child would be allowed to have a second child.

Critics say the relaxation of rules was too little, and came too late to redress substantial negative effects of the one-child policy on the economy and society.

According to the newspaper's calculations about 30,000 families in Beijing, just 6.7 percent of those eligible, applied to have a second child. The Beijing government had said last year that it expected an extra 54,200 births annually as a result of the change in rules.

In Liuzhou city, in the southern Guangxi region, only 20- percent of eligible families applied, while in Guilin city 30 percent applied. And in Anhui, a largely poor central province, just 12 percent applied, the newspaper said.   Continued...

A woman holds onto her child with one hand and toys with the other at a railway station in Beijing January 14, 2014. REUTERS/China Daily