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China to Reward Farmers for Having Fewer Children
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China will offer financial rewards to farmers who have less children, a new family planning policy aimed at restraining the rise in the country's population.

Parents of every one-child family and those with two daughters in rural areas will receive an annual payment of 600 yuan (US$75) when they reach the age of 60, said Zhang Weiqing, director of the State Population and Family Planning Commission.

"The pilot program of the policy has proved effective in encouraging peasants to have less children, preventing rapid growth of the rural population and stabilizing the birth rate," Zhang said.

The pilot program has covered 23 provinces and regions, and 1.35 million senior citizens in rural areas, since 2002.

The new approach, different from simply fining farmers who have more than the allowed number of children, is a development of China's current family planning policy, Zhang said.

The fines currently in place for breaking the family planning rules also remain in force. Parents in the countryside are fined three times their average annual salary if they have more than one son. But there are several exceptions. If the first child is a daughter, parents are allowed to have another child. Single-child parents are also allowed more than one child, as are ethnic minority groups.

Traditionally, families prefer sons to daughters, especially in the countryside, where sons mean a continuation of the family name, stronger labor on the farm and financial support in older age.

The one-child policy has helped reduce the country's population by over 300 million people and postponed the arrival of the 1.3-billion population mark by four years, officials say. Although the country also has an ageing population and a skewed gender ratio.

The central government and the provincial government will both pay for the new financial rewards. The central government will contribute 80 percent in the western regions, 50 percent in the central regions and 40 percent in the northeastern regions.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2006)

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