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Friday 9 December 2016

In China, 90m families will benefit from two-child policy

Elsewhere, a child prodigy in Yemen loses his leg and fingers after suspected Saudi-led airstrike on wedding killed his relatives and left him badly burned

Published 01/11/2015 | 02:30

HORROR OF WAR: Abdullah al-Sanabani, a 15-year-old child prodigy who once dreamed of leading a Yemeni space programme, may now lose his leg and fingers after a suspected Saudi-led airstrike on a family wedding killed many family members
HORROR OF WAR: Abdullah al-Sanabani, a 15-year-old child prodigy who once dreamed of leading a Yemeni space programme, may now lose his leg and fingers after a suspected Saudi-led airstrike on a family wedding killed many family members

China's top family planning authority said on Friday the central government will leave provinces to hash out the details of implementing a new policy allowing couples to have two children.

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About 90 million families may qualify for the new two-child policy, which would help raise the population to an estimated 1.45 billion by 2030, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in an online statement. China, the world's most populous nation, had 1.37 billion people at the end of last year.

The policy, initially announced on Thursday by the ruling Communist Party, represented a further relaxation of the long-standing and controversial 'one-child policy'. Beijing hopes it can help offset the burden of an ageing population.

For decades, China harshly implemented the one-child policy, leading to forced abortions and infanticides across the country. In recent years, however, the policy has been relaxed, and some couples are allowed to have a second child. Others are permitted a second child if they pay a fine.

Despite the relaxation of the policy, the government will remain heavily involved. Families wishing to have a second child will still need approval, although eventually the commission will seek to shift to a system of registration rather than approval, deputy director Wang Peian said in the statement.

Critics say the policy change comes too late and will not have the desired effect. By around the middle of this century, one in every three Chinese is forecast to be over 60, with a shrinking proportion of working adults to support them.

Wang said the commission expected a labour force aged between 15 and 59 years to rise by about 30 million by 2050, stabilising expectations for economic growth.

After taking power in 1949, the Communist government promoted big families but in the late 1970s it introduced the one-child policy as a way to keep the population from spiralling out of control.

China's birth rate stands at about 1.6 children per family, according to Lu Jiehua, a professor in the Department of Sociology at the Institute of Sociology and Anthropology in Peking University.

"If this figure doesn't rise significantly after five years, I think the government will take further steps to cut restrictions on births. Ideally, the rate should be 2.1 [children per family], which can boost the economy and social development best," said Lu.

***

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva and Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho appealed for renewed political talks to prevent a swift downfall of the minority government that was sworn in on Friday and that the opposition says it will topple.

Portugal's new opposition-dominated parliament will hold a vote on November 10 or 11 on the centre government programme that could boot out the austerity-minded administration.

The growing political uncertainty following an inconclusive October 4 election has prompted concerns that a timid economic recovery and improvements in public finances after a debt crisis and painful austerity measures could stumble. Portugal's benchmark 10-year bond yield rose seven basis points on Friday to 2.58pc.

"The government taking over today does not have [a] majority in parliament so the effort of dialogue and compromise has to proceed with the other political forces to seek the necessary understanding," Cavaco Silva said.

He added that the country cannot afford to create any doubts about its European commitments.

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Most Catalans reject the region's ruling separatist parties' plan to start a political process that would lead to full independence from Spain within 18 months, a survey by pollster Metroscopia showed on Friday.

The separatists in the wealthy northeastern region launched their so-called 'roadmap for independence' on Tuesday when they offered a declaration in the regional parliament to split from Spain. The local assembly has yet to approve it.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government would ensure the declaration would have no effect, as Spain's Constitution does not allow any region to break away.

The Catalan parliament still has not formed a government due to differences between the pro-independence parties about who should be head of the regional government. Elections may have to be held again if they cannot agree to compromise.

In the election in September, the parties won a majority of seats in the assembly but not a majority of the vote.

Opinion polls have shown most Catalans would like to remain within Spain if the region were offered a more favourable tax regime and laws that protect its language and culture.

***

A child prodigy who once dreamed of leading a Yemeni space programme, 15-year old Abdullah al-Sanabani, may now lose his leg and fingers after a suspected Saudi-led airstrike on a wedding killed his relatives and left him badly burned.

Abdullah's intellect shone a rare bright light on desperately poor, war-damaged Yemen, where tragedies like his are now routine for a generation struggling for a decent future.

Six months of conflict between a Saudi-led alliance and the Shi'ite Houthi forces in control of the capital, has killed at least 500 children, according to the United Nations. Countless others have been forced to go hungry, flee home for their lives, or join the fight as child soldiers.

The young scientist's invention of a solar-powered remote control car that could flip over and become a boat won him an international competition in 2012 and a free visit to Nasa, the American space agency.

Asked if he would stay focused on his studies and advance science in his now war-torn homeland, a tired Abdullah said: "God willing."

Sunday Independent

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