Formulated in the early 1970s, China's family planning policy encourages late marriage, late childbearing and one-child families. Now the golden time to have babies for young couples born around the 1980s is approaching.
According to Chinese government regulations, those who were both raised as single children have the right to have two babies. However, most indicate they want only one child as their parents had.
During a survey, recently conducted by the Capital Population Development Forum, about 1,300 Beijing couples aged between 20 and 34, all only children, were asked about their child-rearing plans.
About 51.2 percent of the young couples surveyed said they would not have two babies, while 35.9 percent responded that they'd like to have two children, but only 26.9 percent of them are seriously planning it.
However, the figure is higher than the result of a similar survey four years ago when 17.5 percent said they were planning to have two babies.
According to Ma Xiaohong, an associate professor with the Beijing Population Research Institute, in 2002 about 73.7 percent couples knew the policy that when a single child marries another single child, the couple is entitled to have two children, but now the figure stands at 94 percent.
"We are glad to see that more people know this policy, but only a few of them choose to have two babies. China's family planning policy is successful," she said.
The economic factors, or family income, are the main element influencing people's choices, according to the surveys both in 2002 and 2007. Of people's top five concerns in their lives, looking after their children rose to the second position from the fourth in 2002, and housing was up to the third from the fifth. At the same time, the policy factor went down to the fifth position from the second.
Couples not planning to have children say they want to fully enjoy their "two-persons' world". Two-children families think that with one child in the family, he or she will feel lonely. If there are two, it could be helpful to their education.
When asked "who influences your choice", 70 percent young couples selected themselves. About 17.1 percent said they were influenced by their spouses and 10.9 percent said they accepted their parents' advice.
Ma analyzed that children's education, China's policies, careers, families and life quality change young couples' attitudes toward having children.
Although more people choose to have two babies, the traditional concept that more children in the family make for a happier life has quit the mainstream.
A male preference has also faded in people's minds. About 61.2 percent of those surveyed said that boys and girls are the same. On the contrary to the past, 18.6 percent young couples are willing to have girls and only 15.8 percent prefer boys now.
Government statistics show that about 78,000 babies are born each year in Beijing. The research institute says there could be 140,000 newborns in 2010.
Due to the current population structure and policies in China, the birth rate will rise and a baby boom will happen in Beijing.
Statistics also show that China's population would be 400 million larger than it is now if the one-child family policy had not been installed. China officially announced that its population reached 1.3 billion in January 2005.
The peak in the birth rate will put great pressure on the government. Ma said the government should take measures in medicare, education and public facilities to adapt to the upcoming situation.
She suggested that the population development should be publicized so that people can adjust their plans to avoid the baby boom.
(China.org.cn by Wang Ke, January 16, 2007)