Top 10 policy changes in China in 2015

  1. Two children for all couples

China will allow all couples to have two children, abandoning its decades-long one-child policy, the Communist Party of China announced in late October. The change is intended to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.

Under the new policy, couples who have two children can enjoy longer maternity leave and they could have more than two children if eligible. Current longer marriage and maternity leaves enjoyed by citizens who marry late and delay having children will be removed, and so will the rewards for couples who volunteer to have only one child.

The two-child policy will come into force on Jan 1.

2. Raising the retirement age

The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) proposes progressively raising the retirement age to help address the country’s pension pressure and labor shortage.

On Nov 20, the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security said raising the retirement age will be done progressively in small steps. The authority will raise the retirement age by several months every year, and the policy adjustment will be made public in advance. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is drawing up the policy and will solicit public opinions on the completed draft.

In 2017, China should complete the integration of its two pension systems. From 2018, the retirement age for women should be raised one year every three years, and the retirement age for men should be raised one year every six years. This means in 2045, the retirement age for both men and women will be 65.

3. Household permits on the way for all

China will provide unregistered citizens with household registration permits, a crucial document entitling them to social welfare, according to a high–level reform meeting held in early December.

“It is a basic legal right for Chinese citizens to lawfully register for hukou. It’s also a premise for citizens to participate in social affairs, enjoy rights and fulfill duties,” said a statement released on Dec 9 after a meeting of the central leading group for comprehensively deepening reform.

The meeting was told that registration should take place regardless of family planning and other policy limits, and that those without hukou who face difficulties in applying should have their problems solved.

4. Unified pension system

The landmark pension reform plan, announced by the State Council on Jan 14, aims to eliminate the dual-track pension system in China.

New measures on old-age insurance were unveiled for the nearly 40 million workers in government agencies and public institutions, most of whom are civil servants, doctors, teachers and researchers. Insurance will now be paid by both workers and organizations, instead of just by organizations or central finance as in the past.

Before the measures were introduced, corporate employees had to pay for their own old-age insurance, while government staff enjoyed pensions without making any contribution at all. The reform helps to bring fairness and quench long-term public outcry.

5. Rural residents encouraged to buy properties in cities

China will roll out measures to reduce its property inventory and stabilize its ailing housing market, said a statement released on Dec 21 after a key policy meeting.

Rural residents relocating to urban areas should be allowed to register as city residents, which would enable them to buy or rent property, according to the conference.

In addition, a low-rent public housing program will cover those without household registration.

6. Harsher environmental protection law

China’s revised Environmental Protection Law came into effect on Jan 1, bringing with it heavier punishments.

According to the revised law, extra fines accumulating on a daily basis will be imposed on enterprises that fail to rectify violations.

Local officials may be demoted or sacked for misconduct, including the concealment of offenses, falsifying data, failing to publicize environmental data, and not giving closure orders to enterprises that illegally discharge pollutants.

7. Entrepreneurship encouraged among college students

The Ministry of Education announced in May that more than 30 measures would be introduced to support students starting their own businesses, and for innovation in scientific and academic research.

The measures are outlined in a series of guidelines released by the State Council, including developing and opening compulsory and selective courses for students, and awarding them credits for taking the courses.

Establishing innovation and entrepreneurship records, with transcripts for students, encouraging teachers to guide students in innovation and starting up businesses, and providing them with funds and supporting them to take part in entrepreneurship contests are also on the list.

8. New plan targets water pollution

China released the Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control on April 16 to tackle serious water pollution, aiming to intensify government efforts to reduce emissions of pollutants and to protect supplies.

The plan calls for 70 percent of the water in the country’s seven major river basins, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, to be in good condition by 2020, and for a continued improvement to 75 percent by 2030.

The amount of “black and smelly water” in urban areas will be reduced to 10 percent by 2020 and will largely disappear by 2030.

9. Toughest smoking ban in Beijing

A new regulation on tobacco use took effect in Beijing on June 1. The regulation extends existing smoking bans to include all indoor public areas and workplaces, plus a number of outdoor areas, including schools, seating areas in sports stadiums and hospitals where women or children are treated.

Violators will face fines of up to 200 yuan ($32), a twentyfold increase from the previous 10-yuan penalty stipulated by the previous regulation adopted in 1996. Owners of buildings classified as public places, such as restaurants, that fail to stop smokers lighting up face fines of up to 10,000 yuan.

Members of the public can report violations to the authorities by dialing a health hotline (12320) or via social media.

10. Price control on most medicines lifted

China has lifted price controls on most medicines since June 1 with the intention of creating a more market-driven pricing system that will help keep medical costs in check.

Only narcotics and some listed psychotropic drugs continue to be controlled by the government, with ceiling retail prices.

Public health departments must boost supervision on medical institutions and check improper medicine and medical equipment use, as well as excessive checkups and treatment, according to a notice issued in May.

From: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-12/28/content_22835045.htm

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