China has started laying the grounds for ending its decades-long family planning policy by dropping all provisions pertaining to family planning in its new draft civil code. The code is being considered for review at the fifth meeting of the 13th National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which will be in session till August 30.
The draft proposes a cool-off period for couples who are planning to divorce. The provision is being incorporated to ensure that couples think over their decision to separate in a “calm and reasonable manner” before ending their relationship.
A new comprehensive civil code is likely to be promulgated in 2020. But there is belief that provisions pertaining to family planning and divorce could get implemented by the end of the year. China is staring at a looming ageing crisis, with a massively declining birth rate threatening to derail its growth.
There were 217 million Chinese over the age of 60, accounting for 17.3 per cent of the population. In comparison, India has 103 million citizens over the age of 60, who make up only 8.6 per cent of the population. Beijing fears that by 2050, old people could make up 35 per cent of its society.
But Beijing’s efforts to combat the ageing population have hit an unexpected snag: many parents are no longer interested in having more babies. Couples have increasingly delayed having even one child as they devote more time to other goals, such as building their careers. The skyrocketing cost of raising children in booming China has also given many prospective parents pause.
“Lots of people want to have a second child, but the biggest problem is the financial burden,” said a mother in the northeastern city of Dalian, who wants a second and even third child but remains hesitant to bear the financial and career costs.
There is “heavy propaganda aimed at urban educated Han women” urging them to “marry early and have children early,” said Leta Hong Fincher, author of “Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China”, referring to the majority Han community. Surveys have shown many one-child families harbour little desire for more children.
China also faces the problem of couples refraining from getting married. Government data shows there were 3.01 million marriages in the first quarter of 2018, which is 5.7 per cent dip year-on-year. Five years ago, the number was 4.2 million, and has now dropped by 30 per cent.
(With PTI inputs)