Ian MacKinnon, south-east Asia correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Saturday November 22 2008 00.01 GMT
Faced with a baby boom, Vietnam is planning a crackdown to stop couples having more than two children. The communist government in the country of 86 million – two-thirds of whom are under 35 – fears a new population explosion will knock its economic growth off track and strain health and education services.
A two-child policy introduced in the 1960s was scrapped in 2003, though the one-party state’s rulers continued to encourage couples to have small families so they could adequately care for them.
But a spike in births this year to couples who already have two children caused alarm. In the first nine months, 93,000 babies were born to these couples, a 10% rise on last year.
This week the cabinet agreed a draft order for the two-child rule that will be voted on by the national assembly. No sanctions for breaking the rule were outlined, but in the past families faced pay cuts and penalties at work. Party members could be reprimanded or expelled.
However, Tran Thi Van, of the UN Population Fund, warned: “In Vietnam now, life expectancy is rising, the fertility rate is decreasing, and in the next 20 years many people will be in the senior group. If there’s not a sufficient labour force as the population is ageing, the country will face a lot of problems.”