Ms. Jiang, herself the mother of a 3-year-old boy, says most of her friends are eligible as only-children themselves, but few are considering having second kids. “Some say they're under a lot of pressure, so one is enough,” the 30-year-old says, adding that she and her husband have no immediate plans to have a second child themselves. “I feel it's a little bit hard to feed and train one child. We want to be with him as much as we can.”
The irony of Shanghai's exemption policy is that the city is struggling to convince some young couples to have an extra child, while at the same time imposing harsh financial penalties on others who don't qualify, but are determined to expand their families.
Ji Yaowu and Bian Yuhui brought home their first child, a son, six months ago, and already are planning to have a second child even though it could mean having to pay a fine of up to three years' wages – nearly $100,000 in their case.
The couple doesn't qualify under Shanghai's exemption program because Mr. Ji, who was born in 1979 just before the one-child policy was introduced, had an elder brother. But that's also exactly why he's so keen that his son have a sibling.
“I remember my childhood, and I want my child to have company too – even though we will have to pay the penalty,” the spiky haired Mr. Ji says, casting a meaningful glance at Ms. Bian, a pretty and practical 28-year-old who admits she's more worried than her husband about the $100,000.
Mr. Ji, who works as a shipping broker, says the couple can live with the financial penalty, even if it makes life hard for a while. But he's well-versed in Shanghai's growing demographic problem, and wonders why the government would want to fine a young family that wants to raise the children – and future workers – the city's economy desperately needs.
The one-child policy has worked for China for a long time, he says – shuddering at the idea of even more people living in Shanghai than there already are – but the city and the country are richer now and the birth restrictions are out of date. More young people, he says, are needed to help pay for the growing number of elderly.
His father-in-law, 58-year-old Bian Zhengui, smiles but says little as Mr. Ji boasts of being able to afford the massive fines to have a second child. Such talk is completely foreign to someone who was born during a time when China was isolated and impoverished, and who lived through the Cultural Revolution, when speaking out against government policy was tantamount to a death wish.
Still, Mr. Bian, who acknowledges he and his wife will rely financially on his daughter and son-in-law in retirement, knows progress when he sees it. “I think they should loosen the policy and make more people eligible to have second children,” he says watching his wife comfort his wailing grandson.
But does he ever regret not being able to have a second child? The question provokes hearty laughter, and an affectionate glance at his only daughter.
“No, no, no. We were too tired. One was enough cost and work for us.”