Nov 12, 2013 06:53 PM

Party to Change One-Child Policy after Plenum, Source Says

(Beijing) – The Communist Party is planning to alter the one-child policy shortly after a major meeting it is holding ends, a source close to the conclave says.

The change would allow any family that had one parent grow up as a single child have a second baby. Couples in China are currently only allowed to have a second baby if both parents were only children.

The one-child policy and other population-control measures were one of the key issues discussed at the third plenary meeting of the party's 205-member 18th Central Committee, said the source, who declined to be named.

The Central Committee meeting was to run from November 9 to 12. It was being held in the Great Hall of the People in the capital.

Demographers have been warning that changes needed to be made to population policies because the country's birthrate is quite low. Over the past 20 years couples have been having an average of 2.1 children, a figure that experts say is too low to keep the population from shrinking.

Demographers have described this proposal as a minor adjustment, but say it would indicate party leaders intend to give more control over family-planning matters to parents.

Experts have also predicted that the country's population will peak in 2023, then decline. Population control policies should be scrapped by then, they say.

Mao Qunan, spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said that over the past four decades family planning rules had kept 400 million people from being added to the population and linked this to greater prosperity.

"China's economy has grown to become the second-largest in the world with great contribution from population-control policies," Mao said.

The country now has 1.3 billion people, census figures show.

However, Wang Feng, a public policy professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the effects of the one-child policy have been exaggerated. The sharpest recent decline in the birth rate occurred in the decade before the rules were introduced in 1980, he said.

During that decade the average birth rate for each couple fell from 5.8 to 2.75 due to the promotion of birth control knowledge, he said.

Birth rate figures also started to fall in 1987, Wang said, as the economy took off.

"The improvement of living standards and changes in people's views about family and giving birth are the key forces driving the decline," Wang said.

Government policies had kept 100 million babies from being born, he said.

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