Beijing must brace for baby boom, legislators say

Updated: 2013-12-28 08:12

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Beijing lawmakers and sociologists urged the government on Friday to prepare for a possible baby boom after the capital relaxes its family planning policy next year.

A draft amendment to Beijing's family planning policy was delivered for its first review on Friday. If it is approved, city couples with one parent as an only child will be eligible to have a second child starting in March at the earliest.

Beijing's revision echoes a national-level decision to relax the one-child policy across the country, announced by the Communist Party of China last month. Local governments were asked at that time to set their own timetable for a relaxation of the policy.

The capital's draft amendment is scheduled for a second review under legislative procedures in February.

"The proposed revision will maintain a balanced population development in the city," said Liu Zhi, director of Beijing Commission of Population and Family Planning.

The Standing Committee of Beijing People's Congress confirmed a baby boom will occur within three years if the new rule goes into effect.

Sun Shichao, a member of the committee, said on Friday that the government should conduct more studies on a possible baby boom.

Zhang Xiufang, deputy director of the committee's office responsible for the family planning policy, agreed with Sun, saying the city government should think about how to prepare for the flood of eligible couples applying for a second child when the rule is relaxed.

"Under a conservative estimation, the number of eligible couples willing to have a second child in the city is not small, which raises high requirements for the government to provide auxiliary measures," said Zhang, who suggested making an online appointment system for couples before they file an application.

Beijing must conduct more analyses and preparations or "it will be hard to handle the increasing population in such a big city," she said.

The government is being urged to conduct risk evaluations of older pregnant women, especially over the age of 40, because this age group will need safety measures to protect them and their newborns if the policy is relaxed, said Zhang.

She also said facilities at hospitals must be able to handle the future boom.

The government has yet to define plans to prepare for the future baby boom, which is why the committee is concerned, she added.

The new rules are expected to make 15 to 20 million Chinese couples eligible for a second child, said Zhai Zhenwu, director of the School of Sociology and Population Studies at Renmin University of China.

Lu Huajie, a sociology professor at Peking University, said the number of couples in Beijing that will be eligible to have a second child is unknown. He urged city authorities to reveal their estimations as soon as possible.

Women who have undergone tubal ligation should be provided assistance from hospitals, he suggested. He added that improving medical care, the construction of kindergartens and expanding social insurance must also be taken into consideration.

Shan Juan contributed to this story.

caoyin@chindaily.com.cn

(China Daily 12/28/2013 page3)

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