Confusing signals are emerging from China about its draconian one- child policy. The hard-line position was supported by Zhang Wei- qing, minister in charge of the State Population and Family Planning Commission last week. He said that if the one-child policy had not been in place, China would have had an extra 400 million people. He reiterated the government’s determination to keep the population below 1.37 billion by 2010, up from 1.3 billion in 2005.
On the other hand, in Guangzhou, parents who are the only children of their families are being encouraged to have a second child in a drive to rejuvenate the city’s ageing population. Local officials insist that this is consistent with national guidelines. "The policy aims to help reduce the pressure on younger members of society caused by ever-increasing ageing populations," said Duan Jian-hua, deputy director of the Guangzhou Population and Family Planning Committee. But few couples are willing to have a second child, due to the increased financial burden. "With both parents coming from one-child families, these couples will bear full responsibility for looking after their parents and children. As a result, many prefer even having no children to having two," he comments.
Demographers have forecast that by the year 2050, one quarter of China’s population will be over 65 — about 400 million people, or nearly as many as the current population of the European Union.
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