Chinese province wants to ease "one child" policy

Guangdong, in southern China, will ease up on the one-child policy, allowing couples where one parent is an only child to have two children.

Authorities in China’s most populous province have asked Beijing to ease the one-child policy, a government official said today, amid growing concerns over gender imbalances and an ageing population.

Guangdong, in southern China, wants to allow some families to have two children, an official with the Guangdong Population and Family Planning Commission told AFP.

Local authorities have submitted the proposal - which would allow couples where one of the adults is an only child to have a second baby - to central government, the official, who declined to be named, said.

‘‘To allow the new policy will have little overall impact on population growth,’’ Guangdong family planning chief Zhang Feng was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying.

Zhang said that Guangdong, which had a population of 104 million in the last census, would not encourage couples to have a second child, but would permit some to do so under an experimental scheme, BBC reports.

Guangdong is proposing that the one-child restriction be waived if either of the parents was an only child. In most provinces, families are only legally entitled to a second child when both partners had no siblings.

Those exempt from the law, introduced in 1979, include ethnic minorities, farmers whose first child is a girl and couples where both are only children.

Couples who flout the law face hefty fines and a cutback in social services.

But the one-child law is facing increasing scrutiny.

He Yafu, an expert who is in close contact with some of China’s official demographers, told AFP last year that officials planned to launch similar pilot projects in five provinces aimed at evaluating the effects of relaxed rules.

The would-be test provinces were Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning in the northeast, Jiangsu and Zhejiang in the east, AFP reported.

‘‘Official demographers say that those five provinces have basically been determined as the first pilot provinces, and over the next five years or so it will spread to the whole of China,’’ he said.

Critics of the law say that it is a heavy burden for children to carry as they face a future of caring for six adults - their parents and both sets of grandparents.

The policy has also been blamed for creating gender imbalances, where sex-specific abortions remain common and female infanticide and the abandoning of baby girls occurs.

Meanwhile, the world’s most populous country, with more than 1.3 billion, has an ageing population that is putting pressure on the nation’s economy.