THE NEW GENERATION: Children in a kindergarten in Luoyang City, Henan Province, on September 2 (CFP)
On November 15, a document adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China was published, announcing that families will be allowed to have a second child if one of the parents is an only child.
This decision marks a further relaxation of the family planning policy in China.
China first introduced the policy in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by allowing most urban couples to have only one child and allowing most rural couples to have two if their firstborn was a girl. In late 2011, couples across the country were given the option of having two children if both of the parents are themselves from one-child families.
"This change in the policy is of great importance and a step toward a more favorable age structure of the population in China," said Li Jianmin, a demographic expert at Tianjin's Nankai University. "This latest adjustment comes as Chinese society faces the growing burden of an aging population and the necessary social pensions. But it is not the end of China's family planning policy."
In a survey conducted by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), it was shown that some 15 million to 20 million people will be affected by the policy change, but only about 50 to 60 percent of them intend to have a second child.
"I'll definitely have a second kid," said Hu Youli, a government worker in Hefei, capital city of east China's Anhui Province. "I am a single child so I know how lonely a single child can be. I don't want my children to feel the same way."
Yin Shanshan, a playwright in Beijing who just gave birth to a baby in May, doesn't agree, however. As a single child herself, Yin is permitted to have a second child under the new policy, but she said that she would still prefer not to. "The cost of bringing up a baby is very high, even higher than you think it would be," Yin said. "In Beijing, if parents cannot earn at least 500,000 yuan ($82,000) a year, I am afraid they cannot afford to give even a single child a decent education."
Liu Jing, a primary teacher in Shanghai, is still undecided whether or not to have a second child. "If I have a second child, I might have to be a full-time mother. Two children will require much more energy to take care of," Liu said. "My husband doesn't want a second baby, as he thinks taking care of one is exhausting enough."
"Couples in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai tend to have just one child while those living in small and medium-sized cities are more likely to want more," said Zhai Zhenwu, Director of the School of Sociology and Population Studies at Beijing-based Renmin University of China.
A survey conducted by Southern Metropolis Daily published in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, in conjunction with local news portal gd.qq.com, after the announcement of the new policy showed that a quarter of unmarried respondents said that they would prefer to marry someone who is an only child so that they could have the option of having two children.
Zhai believes that the family planning policy change is not enough by itself to instigate a population explosion.
"There is unlikely to be a large hike in the birthrate as there have been large shifts in how childrearing is thought about and the costs of raising a child are continually increasing," Zhai noted. "Chinese parents used to prefer to have many children as they believed more offspring would bring more blessings and children were considered the best source of care for elders. But nowadays, the opinions of many parents have changed."