2021-09-22 10:13:37

A city in the northwestern Gansu province plans to reward students from rural families that have strictly complied with local family planning policies by awarding them additional points in key examinations, according to a draft regulation published to solicit public opinions.

Students who come from rural families in Jiuquan with just one child or two daughters will be awarded 10 additional points in the crucial high school enrollment exams known as zhongkao, as well as the college entrance exams, or gaokao, when applying for universities in the province. The document stated the goal of the rewards was to “advance the long-term balanced development of the local population.”

According to the draft policy, when it comes to cash compensation or other projects that will be calculated based on the number of members in one household, families with an only child, regardless of their sex, will be considered as having two children, while those with two daughters will be counted as a three-children household. Families with one child will be awarded no less than 10 yuan ($1.50) a month, and when the parents reach retirement age, they’ll be given 2,000 yuan as a reward.

The one-child policy is believed to have heightened the country’s aging crisis as China witnesses its elder demographic grow. In recent years, several governments — both central and local — have introduced various economic subsidies to encourage couples to have more children.

However, Jiuquan had looser family planning restrictions long before China introduced its two-child and later three-child policy.

The mountainous and poverty-stricken Jiuquan was one of four pilot cities to first roll out the two-child policy in 1985 to assess how it would fare, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. Authorities then encouraged late marriage and childbirth in these areas and allowed families to have a second child five years apart, while the rest of China continued to implement the one-child policy.

The comparatively looser policy, however, didn’t result in higher birth rates in Jiuquan. According to the 2020 census, the average household in Jiuquan now has 2.47 members, a significant drop from the 3.83 members recorded in 1990.

Last year, the city, which has a population of just over 1 million, only recorded 8,216 births, a year-on-year decline of 1,605. Local health authorities said that the increasing cost of childcare, housing, and education has dissuaded couples from having children.

Jiuquan also plans to set up a long-term mechanism to provide free birth services for local families that have lost their only child or have a single child with disabilities. Mothers in these families who give birth to another child will be eligible for a monthly subsidy between 350 yuan and 500 yuan once she reaches the age of 49.

However, some locals have reacted strongly to the draft guidelines.

Xu Lan, who works with a travel company based in the city of Dunhuang, said the rules sounded like authorities were compensating families with fewer children.

“It’s a bit unfair for urban households,” Xu, whose child is enrolled in middle school, told Sixth Tone. “In those crucial exams, every point matters, and they also mean everything to us.”

When reached by Sixth Tone on Wednesday, Zhang Hui, an official with the city’s health authority, said the rules were not yet finalized. He added the city didn’t have many families with three children, and there weren’t any households that exceeded the central government’s three-child policy.

“We’re still soliciting opinions from local governments and the general public — it’s not the final version,” Zhang said.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Students during a prep rally for the high school entrance examination in Sanmenxia, Henan province, March 15, 2019. People Visual)