The Chinese government plans to increase cash awards to older rural couples who have complied with China's "one-child" policy, as part of a bid to offset social security concerns that have resulted from the nearly 30-year-old practice. At the same time, the government says it will continue to penalize couples who violate family planning restrictions.
The measure announced Thursday is part of new efforts to address concerns that China has too few young people to provide for a disproportionately large older generation.
Officials say rural couples over the age of 60 that have had only one child, or two female children, will receive a small award of $72 a year. The amount is roughly equal to two month's income for an average rural family.
Pan Guiyu, Vice Minister of family planning, said that along with the increased number of cash rewards will come continued enforcement of China's strict family planning laws. She said those who violate them will be punished. "On the one hand we will encourage and reward those with few children. But, at the same time, according to family planning law, we will collect the fees from those who violate the law," she said.
International human rights advocates have long protested China's tough penalties on those who choose to have more children than the law allows. Some critics have also expressed concern about the wider social effects that family planning regulations have brought.
China is facing a large gender imbalance, with some 117 boys born for every 100 girls - far higher than the natural ratio. Critics say the family planning laws, combined with a traditional favoritism towards males, have encouraged both abortions of female fetuses and abandonment of newborn girls.
The government has also launched a campaign to discourage female infanticide - China's traditional way of eliminating unwanted female offspring - and a plan to tighten a ban on the more modern method of sex-selective abortions.
The United States is among those critical of China's policy of restricting births, citing what it says are the law's negative social, economic, and human rights consequences.