Beijing will not ease restrictions on the birth of a second child for people with higher educational qualifications, and the second-child policy is still mainly open to rural residents and couples from one-child families.
"Beijing's current family planning policy will not change," Li Yunli, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Population and Family Planning Committee, said during a live chat on Beijing Official Website International on Thursday.
The remarks were in response to heated discussions in recent years over whether the city would allow couples with college degrees to have a second child.
"Those people are actually not necessarily well-rounded in other areas since personality quality is a complicated issue and certainly not guaranteed by higher education," Li said. "For example, their babies might not be as physically strong as those in rural areas.
"Urban residents enjoy much better social security policies than their rural peers. In turn, rural residents receive preferential treatment with regard to a second child."
China's family planning policy encourages couples, apart from those from ethnic minority groups, to have only one child to restrain population expansion. Couples that meet certain conditions can have a second child.
Li also encouraged couples who themselves were only-children to have a second child.
"This would help solve labour shortages and deal with the challenge of an ageing population," Li said.
Beijing's population aged 60 and above reached 1.97 million at the end of 2004, making up 13 per cent of the city's population.
The number is estimated to rise to 6.5 million by 2050, accounting for 30 per cent of the city's population.
According to China's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) on ageing, China will have more than 174 million senior citizens by 2010, accounting for 12.78 per cent of the population, compared with the current figure of 143 million.
However, Yu Xuejun, director of the policy and legislative department of the State Population and Family Planning Commission, disagreed with Li.
"China cannot rely on the birth of more children to solve ageing issues," Yu told China Youth Daily on Thursday. "The best solutions are to boost economic development and build an effective social security system, especially in rural areas.
"Ageing is a global issue. Many factors may affect it, including birth rate, anticipated longevity and population migration."
In China, besides family planning, extended longevity is another important factor, with average life expectancy increasing from 67 in 1981 to 73 today.
"Family planning maybe not that perfect," Yu said, "but it will be a long-term fundamental national policy for the most populous country in the world."
(China Daily September 30, 2006)