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Opinion / Expert takes on world in 2015

Brace for a baby boom

By Zhai Zhenwu (Chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2014-12-22 08:23

Brace for a baby boom

Allowing couples, one or both of whom is/are the only child, to have two children is one of the most important decisions taken by the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee. The new policy, however, has not been applied by all the provinces at the same time. Zhejiang province was the first to implement it on Jan 17, about two months after it was announced, while Henan province was the last to put it into practice, on June 3.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission data show that till the end of September, more than 800,000 couples across the country had applied to the family planning authorities to have a second child. Going by the data, until the end of March 2015, more than 1.1 million couples would be eligible to have a second child, and 1 million to 1.2 million births are expected in the first year after the implementation of the new policy.

And since the policy's effect would be hysteretic, the birth rate peak will appear in the second or third year after the Third Plenum's announcement. By then, 2 million births could be expected in a year. Considering the number of applications to have a second child is roughly equal to the expected newborn population next year, the current situation is basically in line with expectations.

But since only about 270,000 eligible applications for a second child had been filed until the end of May, some media outlets prematurely assumed that the new policy had received a cool response. They seem to have neglected the fact that the policy had been implemented for just two months in many provinces till that time and that figures from seven provinces were not included in the total because they had not yet or just enforced the new policy. The following several months saw on average 100,000 applications.

Moreover, most of the couples applying this year would have a second child in 2015, which is the Year of the Sheep according to the lunar calendar. But since the Year of the Sheep is not considered ideal for childbirth, it's highly likely that superstition has stopped many eligible couples from applying to have a second child. This means the number of applications will sharply increase next year.

Figures from many provinces show that women aged 31 to 35 comprise the largest group among the applicants for a second child. Data from Beijing till the end of November show that this age group accounted for 57 percent of the total applicants. In Shanghai, the average age of the applicants is 33 years. And in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, 31-to-35-year olds comprise 46 percent of the applicants. However, nationwide the applicants are mainly between 25 and 40 years old.

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