What you need to know
It has been less than a year since China's two-child policy came into effect, but the country is already seeing problems with families exceeding the stipulated limit and provinces are looking to amend 'social maintenance fee' regulations to tackle the problem.
The Beijing municipal government has launched a month-long online survey to determine the appropriate fine to be imposed on families that violate the recently implemented two-child policy. Under the proposed amendments to the “social maintenance fee," couples married or not who have more than two children would be charged between three and 10 times the local average annual disposable income for each additional child.
China officially ended its one-child policy in 2015, and a new two-child policy came into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. But the country has seen an increase in the number of families exceeding the stipulated limit of two children.
Aside from Beijing, 29 provinces across China have also made amendments to their social maintenance fee regulations since the two-child policy was established.
The government started collecting the fees in the 1980s; they are said to compensate for “social resources” taken up when a second child is born. The state-run Global Times in 2014 reported that China collects “more than 20 billion yuan (US$3.25 billion) in social maintenance fees” each year, “but there has been limited information on where the money goes.”
Failure to pay the social maintenance fee means the child cannot obtain a household registration document, which ensures basic rights such as education.
After China scraped the one-child policy, the State Council said on Jan. 14 that “eight kinds of people without household registration would be able to register without any preconditions as long as they can present the necessary documents,” the Global Times reported. However, the council did not mention whether these people would have to continue paying fees after obtaining their household registration documents.
An estimated 7.8 million people in China have been denied household registration because “their families didn’t pay [the fee] after they were born in violation of the one-child policy,” according to the Global Times.
Recent surveys show that despite the restrictions being relaxed, a second child is still “a luxury” beyond most people's reach.
Money Weekly, a Chinese investment magazine, reports it costs a family between RMB 500,000 and RMB 1.3 million to raise a child until he/she graduates from college. That figure increases to RMB 2 million if the child studies abroad. In big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the costs may be greater.
Statistics published by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NHFPC) show that in 2015 approximately 2 million applications for a second child were filed — far less than what authorities had projected.
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole