Guangdong is moving to relax the one-child policy, joining some city and local governments around the country which have already done so. Foreign Policy looks at some of the side-effects of the policy to date:
With a population of more than 104 million, Guangdong is currently China’s most populous province. Officials proposed this change in order to combat problems associated with a population that is rapidly aging. Zhang Feng explained that “the increase in population is still a big problem affecting our social and economic development…But in the long-term, aging will also be a problem.”
Guangdong also has an important role in a very different method of circumventing the one-child policy. A growing number of mainland mothers use intermediaries — many of whom are based in Guangdong — to arrange for them to travel to, and give birth in, nearby Hong Kong, where the one-child policy does not apply. According to government statistics, in 2010 47% of the babies born in Hong Kong were the children of mainland mothers.
In addition to avoiding fines imposed for disobeying the one-child policy, mothers who give birth in the territory reap a variety of other benefits. For example, their children are automatically considered residents of Hong Kong (although most children return to the mainland with their parents anyway), and as such, can travel abroad more freely. All of this doesn’t come cheap however, with prices at public hospitals (where approximately a quarter of the mainland babies are born) between HK$39,000 and HK$48,000 (approximately US$5,000 and US$6,150). Prices at private hospitals are even higher.
Officials in both Hong Kong and mainland China have expressed concern over this trend. In April, worried that the record influx of mainland mothers would overload their healthcare system, Hong Kong announced that for the rest of the year mainland mothers will be prohibited from signing-up to give birth in public hospitals. The Hong Kong government has also recently restricted the number of spots available to non-locals at public hospitals, from 10,000 in 2011 to only 3,400 for 2012. The government has also considered raising the rates charged at public hospitals. And in Guangdong, members of the family planning committee recently ruled that second children, even those born outside the mainland, must be registered as “additional.”