21 October 2016
A woman in Dongguan, Guangdong, carries her two children. Photo: Internet
A woman in Dongguan, Guangdong, carries her two children. Photo: Internet

Guangdong couples most eager to have second child

The proportion of couples in Guangdong who are allowed to have a second child and want one is higher than elsewhere in China – testament to the province’s good quality of life and the traditional thinking of Cantonese people.

Figures just released by the family planning office of the province’s Health Bureau showed that between March 27 and December 31 last year, 105,527 Guangdong couples had applied for authorization to have a second child, and 96,197 had received approval.

Both figures accounted for 10 per cent of the national total, the highest of any province.

Guangzhou topped the list with 24,374 applications, followed by Shenzhen with 13,627 and Foshan with 12,248.

A year ago, Beijing relaxed the strict conditions of the national one-child policy to allow a couple who were both single children to have a second child if they wished, subject to authorization.

Explaining the high number in Guangdong, a spokesman for the family planning office said that traditional thinking in the province involved a strong desire to have a large family.

“Second, the province has a high level of urbanization, and the one-child policy had been implemented well,” the spokesman said.

“Third, many applicants were couples who had been waiting for years for a second child.

“Fourth, the province has the largest population of migrant workers.”

He said if one of the members of a couple is a Guangdong resident and the other a migrant worker, they are able to apply for authorization and likely to receive it.

When the one-child policy was first introduced in September 1980, it was met by great resistance in a country that has prided itself on the virtues of a large and harmonious family.

But economic conditions in which most people live, especially in the cities, have changed that way of thinking.

Many couples who live in small apartments for which they are paying a mortgage over dozens of years choose to have no child or only one, because of the high cost of education and child-raising and the intense competition that surrounds it.

Tradition and morality also requires couples to devote time and money to look after their aging parents.

The exceptions are the rich; they are willing and able to pay the heavy fines imposed for a second or third child and have maids, drivers and other domestic help to reduce the burden of child care.

The enthusiasm for a second child in Guangdong points to the higher standard of living in the province.

The average income of an urban resident in Guangdong last year was 32,148 yuan (US$5,182), higher than the national average of 28,844 yuan, official figures show.

The province ranked fifth in China, behind Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

The average monthly salary in Guangzhou last year was 6,830 yuan.

Many people in Guangdong have relatives in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and overseas and do not accept easily directives from the central government.

They retain the traditional idea that a large family is one of the greatest blessings in life. They do not look forward to a world in which two single children must care for four elderly parents.

Jiang Zuozhong, deputy chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee in Shunde, said Guangdong ranked first in China in terms of urbanization, per capita gross domestic product, educational level and proportion of women working.

“This easing of the family policy will not result in a major change in the size of the population or its structure,” Jiang said.

“It will improve the structure and ease the imbalance in the future between the young and the old.”

Wang Yuemei, a representative to the Guangdong National People’s Congress, said Guangdong should serve as an experiment in easing the restrictions on births.

“My proposal is to encourage one child, allow two and control three,” Wang said. “We should gradually ease the controls.

“We should allow other couples with the opportunity and the conditions to have a second child.

“Look at the low birth rate and the serious problem of aging. Single couples now have to look after four elderly parents. The next generation will have to look after eight.

“The pressure is too great. 

“Not every couple wants to have a second child. Such an easing will not cause a rapid increase in population.

“If we look at the economy of the country and the provision of public services, we have the resources to allow this easing.” 

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Hong Kong-based journalist and author. He had worked as a correspondent for the South China Morning Post in Beijing and Shanghai.

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