BEIJING (Reuters) - China is to more than triple the amount of compensation that some parents get if their only child dies, the health and family planning agency said on Thursday, in the latest sign of a more lenient stand on an uncompromising population policy.
China's childless parents are emblematic of the problems of the tough one-child policy, which the government says has resulted in 400 million fewer births since 1980.
A loosening of the one-child policy, which will allow more parents to have a second child, will begin early next year.
Traditionally, Chinese people rely on children to support them in old age so when a sole child dies, elderly parents can find themselves in dire circumstances. China has little in the way of welfare or health insurance systems.
From next year, couples in cities who have lost their only child and in which the woman is 49 or older will get 340 yuan ($56) per parent a month, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a statement.
Previously, urban couples got 100 yuan a month per parent, under rules set in 2010.
Couples in rural areas will get 170 yuan per parent a month.
In May, about 400 people who had lost an only child gathered in Beijing to appeal in front of the National Health and Family Planning Commission's headquarters, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.
Wang Hailong, a senior official from the National Health and Family Planning Commission who met the protesters, said then he would resign if the issue was not addressed before the end of the year.
($1 = 6.0714 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Robert Birsel