SUPER DADDY: More than 100 fathers and their babies attend a training activity in an early education center in Beijing (CFP)
A middle-aged couple residing in China's southern Guangdong Province have recently found themselves facing a dilemma: whether or not to have a second child.
Li Jun is the only child in his family, while his wife Zhang Li has a sister. Their daughter was born in 2006. Due to the recent relaxation of China's family planning policy, the couple is now eligible to have a second child.
Last December, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, decided to ease the country's decades-long family planning policy and allow couples to have two children if either parent is an only child, in a bid to raise fertility rates and ease the financial burden on China's rapidly aging population. But the change will take effect in provincial-level regions only after local legislatures revise their family planning regulations. On March 27, Guangdong revised its regulations.
Considering his own lonely childhood, Li is eager to have another child so that his daughter will have company. But Zhang does not see eye to eye with her husband on this issue. Thinking of the troubles she underwent while conceiving and raising their first child, she is hesitant.
"I am already 38. Although I can still give birth, but I am not as energetic as I was in my 20s or early 30s," she told the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News.
Zhang, a mid-level manager in a company, said that she often has to work extra hours, and if she has another child, she might have to quit her job.
Furthermore, their only daughter has left them with little spare time, she said. Now, their daughter is in the first grade of primary school. They tutor her in the evenings and accompany her to extracurricular activities on the weekends.
Moreover, both her and her husband's parents are in their 70s, and no longer capable of caring for another baby, Zhang said.
No explosive growth
Whether or not to have a second child is a question many couples of child-bearing age in China are wrestling with after the family planning policy amendment was adopted.
The birth control relaxation was first implemented in east China's Zhejiang Province on January 17. By the end of April, 22 provincial-level regions on China's mainland had officially launched the new policy. Most of the remaining provinces and autonomous regions plan to implement the policy later this year, according to China News Service.
In regions such as Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, as well as Sichuan and Heilongjiang provinces, after the birth of their first baby, a couple is required to wait for three to four years before having a second one, unless the mother is above a certain age limit, usually 28 years old.
At most 60 percent of eligible couples born in the 1980s will choose to raise a second child, said Wang Guangzhou, a researcher with the Institute of Population and Labor Economics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, citing recent surveys.
As to whether the birth control relaxation will create a population explosion, Ma Xu, the lead researcher of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), estimated that every year, a maximum of 2 million more babies than normal would be born across the country.
Chen Yiping, Deputy Director of the Guangdong Provincial Health and Family Planning Commission, said that fewer than 150,000 families in the province are eligible to have a second child as a result of the policy change, and a survey showed that only about 70 percent of them are willing to have another baby. Despite this, Chen said that the policy change will make little difference to the population of Guangdong.