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One child blues

12-15-2011 16:19 BJT

by Yi Ling and Qian Rong

BEIJING, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- China's first generation of "only child", once seen as a family center in their childhood as the sun to the solar system, may never feel so lonely, when it comes to the time to practice the "universal social principle" to take care of their aging parents.

"It was nice to be the focus of the family when I was a kid, surrounded by the people who loved me," says Cao Yanhui, an advertiser from Beijing.

"But now, if I was still a star, then there were at least four planets on different obits needing my energy," says Cao, referring to her parents and in-laws.

Not since the 32-year-old discovered, only two months ago, that her parents had "moved in" the same city she lives for more than three years from central China's Hunan Province, has Cao felt the urgency of her responsibility to take care of her parents.

"My parents bought a small apartment in suburban Beijing in 2008, but they never said anything about that," says Cao. "It was a big surprise, and I'm not sure if it's a happy one. My husband and I aren't ready for this."

China's National Population and Family Planning Commission announced in 2007 that the number of "only children" living in China at that time was around 90 million. The number is believed to be over 100 million at the present time.

Cao and her husband both come from single-child families. After Cao gave birth to a boy last June, she found that she had what has been referred to as a "4-2-1" family; that is, a family that is made up of four grandparents, a couple and their child.

The "4-2-1" phenomenon is largely the result of the family planning laws China implemented in the 1980s to control its population, which had boomed since the 1950s.

Proponents of the one-child policy saw the country's population growth rate, which peaked at 2.09 percent in 1982, as a potential economic and political threat.

The policy proved to be effective. Some 30 years later, a census conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that the population of the world's most populous country was shrinking, with the country's population growth rate falling to 0.57 percent in 2010.

However, a lower number of births leads to the creation of an "aging society," a phenomenon in which 10 percent or more of a country's population is at or above the age of 60. The NBS census showed an aged population of 177 million in China, or 13.26 percent of the entire population.

Figuring out how to take care of the country's elderly is a growing problem in China.

Chinese culture also comes into play; the concept of "filial piety," or pledging to take care of one's parents after reaching adulthood, was once taught as an inescapable responsibility. Those who fail to fulfill the filial responsibility will be regarded as a family shame.

It has become increasingly difficult for only children to follow this ancient practice, as they have no siblings with whom to share the responsibility. In addition, many of these children have moved away from the cities where their parents live, making it more complicated for their children to care for them.

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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