As millions of couples are considering welcoming a second child under China’s universal two-child policy, the government is moving to take better care of bereaved parents whose only child died or became disabled.
Every household “living with special difficulties” because of previous family planning policies and which will not choose another birth or adoption, will have two officials from the local village or urban district assigned as liaisons, according to a circular released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission on Aug 16.
The liaison officials will keep in touch regularly through various means, including personal visits and online communications, to provide people with spiritual consolation and coordinate with related government departments to help them solve the difficulties they face, the circular said.
Townships or subdistrict governments should keep records about every such household within their jurisdiction. They should have a clear knowledge of their number, as well as the living conditions and needs. The information should be regularly submitted to higher health authorities, according to the circular.
The measures are intended to improve the well-being of such families and promote harmony and stability in society, it said.
Tang Mengjun, a researcher at the China Population and Development Researcher Center, said compared with previous assistance measures, the liaison system will be better at improving care for such families.
“The liaison system will result in closer and longer-term relations between the officials and such families,” she said. “The officials may have a better understanding of what they really need and help provide assistance more precisely.”
Provinces vary in their measures to assist such families. In many areas the families get a living subsidy. A couple in Beijing who lost their only child, for example, may be eligible for 1,000 yuan ($151) per month when the mother turns 49.
Most such couples need more spiritual comfort than material benefits, according to Tang.
“Such couples usually need at least half a year to get out of pain,” she said, adding that it’s encouraging to see that local governments are paying more attention to people’s spiritual needs.
The current number of families who have lost an only child and will not have another one in China has exceeded 1 million — a number that’s still increasing, experts say.
Before the adoption of the universal two-child policy earlier this year, most urban couples could only have one child. That policy had been in place in China for about three decades.
The new policy makes some 90 million couples in China eligible to have a second child. About half the parents are more than 40 years old, according to the family planning commission.