Overpopulated Vietnam urges parents to stop at two

Hanoi – Facing a population boom, the government of Vietnam has proposed limiting families to two children by punishing bureaucrats who fail to keep the numbers down, a senior government official said Friday. “We are very determined to limit couples on having a third child,” said Nguyen Ba Thuy, Deputy Minister of Health, specializing in population issues and family planning.

Vietnam has an estimated population of 86 million, with some parts of the country among the most densely populated in Asia.

Thuy said Vietnam’s birth rate is set to jump as the number of women of reproductive age is at an all-time high. Officials worry that a baby boom will jeopardize the country’s development efforts.

Under current law, government employees who have a third child are denied raises and promotions. According to the draft ordinance, families that have more than two children will not face additional sanctions. Instead, Communist Party members and civil servants who are charged with enforcing the law will be reprimanded.

The draft does not specify what kind of punishments officials could face.

This week, Vietnam’s health ministry reported that 58 out of 64 provinces failed to reduce the birthrate by the government’s target of 0.3 per cent in the first nine months of 2008. The number of families with a third child was 10 per cent higher than the previous year.

The Communist government is taking the blame for the failure to reign in the birthrate, stating that population growth has been ignored by the Party, as well as state and local authorities. Not enough has been done to educate the public on the importance of a two-child family, said Thuy.

There will be some exceptions to the draft, which will become law when it is passed by the National Assembly. Members of ethnic minority groups whose population is less than 10,000 will be exempt. The law also allows couples with two children to have a third if one child is disabled.

Some fear that the two-child limit may increase the rate of abortion and infanticide.

Vietnam is a patrilineal society, where boys are favoured over girls. A male child not only passes on the family line but is responsible for caring for parents and praying for the family’s ancestors.

The pressure to give birth to a boy has already increased the gender imbalance. According to the Ministry of Health, for every 100 girls born in Vietnam, there are 112 boys.

Population experts say Vietnam has one of the highest abortion rates in Asia. The United Nations Population Fund recently reported that there is one abortion for every two live births in the country.

Thuy, of the Ministry of Health, has warned that by the year 2030, more than 4 million Vietnamese men will not be able to find wives unless the gender imbalance is corrected.



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