Reports began emerging late last week that while China is not lifting its one-child policy - heavily criticized for leading to forced abortions - it is considering amending it based on the needs of Shanghai, which hosts a rapidly aging population and weakening workforce.

Shanghai's Population and Family Planning Commission has begun sending out officials and volunteers to pass out leaflets and offer emotional and financial counseling to families who might be willing to have a second child. More births would help even out the age proportion and bolster the city's economy. And younger people will be needed: Shanghai is home to more than 3 million people over 60, about one-fifth of its population. In 2020, those over 60 are predicted to make up one-third.

At the start of Communist rule in 1949, China's government encouraged population growth and even banned birth control. But the population outgrew the food supply, causing over 30 million deaths from starvation by 1962. The government instated the one-child policy in 1979, and for 30 years has kept a tight rein on the country's population (the world's largest) of 1.3 billion people by monitoring pregnancies, sometimes forcing parents to terminate them.

The one-child policy makes limited exceptions based on location, ethnicity, education, and so on. In urban areas like Shanghai, couples without siblings are permitted to have two children. Rural families (about 53 percent of China's population) are allowed a second child if the first is a girl. Couples who willingly have only one child get honors and benefits, while those who break the rules are punished with fines and property damages.

And everyone is well aware that boys are preferred to girls. With accessibility to ultrasounds in ...

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