China to raise payments for one-child families

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will raise the annual payment to rural parents who abide by its population control policies to 720 yuan ($105.1) next year from 600 yuan currently, the Xinhua news agency said.

Rural parents may have a second child if the first is a girl. Those who reach 60 with either one child, or two daughters, are entitled to the stipend, which has been given to 5.75 million people at a cost so far of 3.6 billion yuan.

China, which has 1.3 billion people, credits the one-child policy, which has been modified to accommodate farmers and ethnic groups, with preventing the explosive population growth that has hampered development in other poor countries.

However, it comes at a great emotional cost for many parents who wanted more children, and widespread use of abortion or sterilisation.

A monthly stipend of 80-100 yuan is paid to couples whose child is sick, handicapped or has died, once the woman reaches 49 years old. That stipend has cost local governments 170 million yuan, and reaches 157,000 people, Xinhua said, citing the National Population and Family Planning Commission.

A programme that rewards women in ethnic areas in the west, who are entitled to three children, if they voluntarily choose to have two will be expanded to reward those who choose to have only one child, Xinhua said.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby; editing by Keith Weir