“We advocate eligible couples to have two kids because it can help reduce the proportion of the aging people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future,” Xie Lingli, director of the Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission, told semi-official China Daily.
Shanghai, the country's most populous city, has more than 3 million registered residents aged 60 and above, nearly 22 per cent of the population. By 2020, the proportion is expected to rise to about 34 per cent.
The US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that by 2050 China will have more than 438 million people older than 60, with more than 100 million of them 80 and above. The country will have just 1.6 working-age adults to support every person aged 60 and above, compared with 7.7 in 1975.
In the 1970s Beijing adopted a strict ‘one-child’ policy; only rural residents and members of ethnic minorities could have a second child if they their first child was a daughter. The same applies for couples who are both single children.
The awareness campaign is directed at these groups and comes with state psychological and financial aid.
The ‘one-child’ policy has been severely criticised from the start.
“The rising number of aging people will put pressure on the younger generation and society. We need to find ways to solve the problem, but it doesn't mean the country's family planning policy will be reversed,” Xie stressed.
At the start of this year a member of the Shanghai commission had already admitted that two thirds of women would like to have two or more children.
Analysts note that despite the strict law rich couples and Communist Party leaders have been able to have more than one child.
Violators were severely punished but only in a few cases to set an example.