China mulls scrapping two-child policy

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China is planning to scrap all limits on the number of children a family can have, according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be a historic end to a policy that spurred countless human-rights abuses and left the world’s second-largest economy short of workers.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, has commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the country’s roughly four-decade-old policy and intends to enact the change nationwide, said the people, who asked not to be named while discussing government deliberations. The leadership wants to reduce the pace of aging in China’s population and remove a source of international criticism, one of the people said.

Proposals under discussion would replace the population-control policy with one called “independent fertility,” allowing people to decide how many children to have, the person said. The decision could be made as soon as the fourth quarter, the second person said, adding that the announcement might also be pushed into 2019.

“It’s late for China to remove birth limits even within this year but it’s better than never,” said Chen Jian, a former division chief at the National Family Planning Commission, who’s now a vice president of the China Society of Economic Reform. “Scrapping birth limits will have little effect on the tendency of China’s declining births.”

Baby-related stocks climbed in China Tuesday, with Ningbo David Medical Device Co., a maker of infant incubators and obstetric equipment, surging by as much as 10 percent. Childcare firms climbed with toy makers, while infant formula producers Beingmate Baby & Child Food Co. and Bright Dairy & Food Co. jumped at least 1.4 percent.

On Monday, Danone, which has doubled its share of China’s baby food market in the past five years, rose to a session high before paring gains, while U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc shares erased declines in London.

The policy change would close the book on one of the largest social experiments in human history, which left the world’s most-populous country with a rapidly aging population and 30 million more men than women. The policies have forced generations of Chinese parents to pay fines, submit to abortions or raise children in the shadows.bc

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