China's government may permit urban families to have a second child by 2015. Picture: Infants take part in a swimming competition in Beijing last year. (File Photo/CFP)
China is considering allowing families to have a second child as the negative effects of the one-child policy become increasingly visible after three decades, an official said during the annual meetings of the country's top political bodies.
Wang Yuqing, deputy head of the human resource and environment committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), proposed a gradual relaxation of the one-child restriction, which could be implemented by 2015, at the end of the government's 12th five-year plan that begins this year.
Wang said that China's demographic dividend, which has helped create the country's rapid economic growth, has been decreasing as the population aged 65 and above climbed to 8.5% of the total population in 2009.
Currently in the country's rural regions, families are permitted to have a second child if the first-born child is a girl. Wang suggested this policy could be gradually extended to China's cities.
Addressing concerns about the population growing out of control, Wang said "the birth rate in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai has been dropping and the high costs of raising a child have changed the way the younger generation thinks."
A similar proposal has been made by Ji Baocheng, a CPPCC member and president of Renmin University of China, over the past four years during the annual meeting.
Ji said that the one-child policy has created a gender imbalance in China along with a decreasing labor force and has triggered the early onset of an aging society, adding to the burdens of the younger generation.
Additionally, being the only child in a family has frequently led to a lack of social skills among young Chinese adults born after 1980, who have tended to have short marriages and work poorly in a team.
Last September, a report by professor Zeng Yi of Peking University's National School of Development offering solutions to the negative effects of the one-child policy was sent to the State Council. The report is believed to have considerable influence on the cabinet's policy-making process.
Developments on the issue are also being watched closely by the public: Wang's proposal has topped search website Baidu's results of news related to the annual meetings of the CPPCC and the National People's Congress.
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