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Shanghai’s government has urged couples to have more children after far fewer than expected applied to have a second child following the relaxation of China’s one-child policy, state media reported on Tuesday.

Some 90 per cent of women of childbearing age in the city are eligible to have a second baby, but only five per cent applied to do so, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning said.

In November 2013 the central government announced that China’s decades-long one-child policy would be amended and that couples where just one parent was a single child would be able to apply to have a second baby. The change was estimated to affect between 10-12m families.

Though the new policy was adopted by Shanghai last March, at the end of 2014 just 16,600 of a possible 370,000 couples had applied, an application rate of 4.6 per cent or just over half the national average of 9 per cent.

“Two children are good for family stability and social development and couples that qualify are encouraged to have a second baby,” Fan Hua, an official at the family planning bureau said.

But for Zhang Wei, a 28-year-old IT engineer, having a second child is too great a financial burden. Under Shanghai’s policy Zhang and his wife, who already have a four-month-old daughter, can have a second child but choose not to.

“To hire a babysitter it costs 8,000 yuan [£842] a month,” he says. “Their salary is higher than mine.”

There are advantages to having a single child, Mr Zhang adds.

“I can give her all my love. She will have the best care.”

Shanghai’s birth rate is among the lowest in the world. The city’s total fertility rate, or the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime, was 0.6 in 2010. China’s national average is around 1.6, below the 2.1 rate needed to keep a population steady.

The government is anxious to see an increase in the city’s birth rate to counter the mounting cost of demographic imbalances.

The Shanghai Population and Family Planning Committee projects that more than a third of the city’s population will be over 60 by 2020, a huge financial burden for a shrinking workforce.

 

Link to The Telegraph