Family planning

China: The Public’s Right to Speak on Family Planning Policy

-To analyse-

BEIJING — On May 31, China announced its new “three-child policy” which allows couples to have three children. The policy was announced just 20 days after the publication of the results of the seventh national population census. They show that the country’s trend of population aging is worsening, with just 12 million new births recorded in 2020, the lowest since 1960. This is no coincidence.

As the minutes of the Politburo meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) show, the policy is to further optimize the relevant support measures of family planning guidelines, improve the population structure, and implement a national strategy by actively responding to demographic change. ageing, in order to maintain the strengths of the country’s human resource endowment.

Although this is still far from meeting the public’s expectation of a full relaxation of the birth limit for couples, the three-child policy nevertheless represents a major readjustment of the principle of birth control in China.

It should be noted that not only are couples now allowed to have three children instead of two, but the National Health Commission, which is responsible for family planning, has pointed out that complaints about political issues such as marriage, Child rearing and education should also be addressed. This includes providing young people with advice on family and marital values, advocating to correct bad marriage customs such as the expectation of a very high dowry, a universal childcare system, promoting equity in education, the provision of high quality educational resources and the reduction of education costs.

We believe the public should have a say.

Indeed, the issues mentioned above are all well-known “pain points” that affect young people’s desire to have babies. Therefore, the adjustment of the resolution of these problems can be considered as a global reflection on parenting policies.

The Politburo meeting proposed that by improving maternity leave and the insurance system, strengthening tax and housing support measures and protecting women’s legal rights and interests in employment, the goal of establishing a more comprehensive maternity protection network can be achieved. And the beneficiaries should include all families from one child to two or three children.

Details of the relevant policy have yet to be announced, but we believe the public should have a say in it. These policies concern all those who are going to be parents and those who will be tomorrow, and will ultimately concern all families. Therefore, the decision-making bodies of government must listen to the expression of their interests by the public. This involves a process of open discussion and full interaction. Unless there is a positive response and public participation, the effectiveness of the policy can be greatly compromised.

Meanwhile, the resolution of the above issues should be combined coherently and organically, rather than being advanced individually by each relevant department. The complexity of family planning policy involves considering different social and economic aspects, including human resources, social security, finance and taxation, education and housing.

Just 12 million new births were recorded in 2020, the lowest since 1960 — Photo: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Any link in the chain that fails to keep up with changes and demand can create rifts in this birth protection network. In the past, perhaps because family planning is a sensitive and complicated issue, relevant government departments were not eager to hear the public’s opinions. Yet, going from allowing couples to have two children if one of the couples is an only child themselves, then allowing two children, then the current three children, the policy has always sparked heated debate between authorities. and the people. Objectively, it was these discussions that accelerated the announcement of government policies.

This is all the more reason for the accompanying measures of the three-child policy to draw on past experience and respond to public demands in a realistic way on the basis of precise research. This will address deficiencies in all of these areas related to reproduction and child rearing, and thus help to reduce parental anxiety. There has been no shortage of experts and scholars with policy suggestions and advice. For example, one expert suggested that a fertility fund be created, while another representative of the entrepreneurial sphere said that “one must fulfill the most basic reproductive responsibility by giving birth to two children before ‘have the right to use contraceptives’, etc.

We welcome constructive advice based on rationality, however, it must be said that some of these suggestions have gone to the opposite pole of serious marriage and childbirth policy.

The fundamental feature of this rhetoric is that many do not view procreation as a fundamental right, but rather as a tool to achieve economic and social goals. Based on this, a punishment and reward mechanism is set up. We believe that any good family planning policy must be based on respect for the fundamental rights of individuals so that each family can freely make their choice.