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China Exclusive: Preparation underway for loosened one-child policy

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Local governments are considering measures to alleviate the pressure on maternity and infant health care expected to be brought about by China's loosened one-child policy.

Yang Wenzhuang, director of the family planning instruction department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), told Xinhua Friday that local governments have conducted surveys and risk assessment on the policy change announced last month.

According to a key reform program, the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has given the green light to couples who want to have a second child if one of them is an only child.

It is a significant change to the country's one-child policy, which has been in effect for more than three decades to rein in population growth, with some estimating that it has prevented 400 million people from being added to China's population, which stands at 1.34 billion at present.

There is no unified timetable nationwide to roll out the new policy, as different regions will implement it based on their local situations, Yang said.

The policy change "meets public expectations" and "promotes happiness" as it allows more families to have two children in order to increase family development and the ability to care for the elderly, he said.

The number of couples eligible for a second child is "not very large," said the director, adding there will be an annual increase of about two million newborns, similar to the increase in new births around the year 2000, which "will not cause big pressure on health care, education and other public resources."

Demographer Zhai Zhenwu said the new policy would result in an estimated 15 million to 20 million couples eligible for a second child. About 50 to 60 percent of these couples are willing to have a second child, according to a recent poll by the NHFPC.

There will also be annual population planning to prevent large fluctuations, Yang said.

He warned that eligible couples would be fined if they have a second child before local congresses approve the revisions.

This policy change will serve as experience and lay foundations for the country's further birth policy adjustment, Yang added.

The reform is aimed at responding to China's aging population. The country has the largest senior population in the world, with 194 million people at or above the age of 60 as of the end of last year, analysts said.

However, demographers are not anticipating an influx of newborn babies at a time when young couples prefer smaller families.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/131206/china-exclusive-preparation-underway-loosened-one-child-poli