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Concern over parents in China who have lost their only child

Even as China gradually loosens its one-child policy to allow a second child if at least one parent is also a single child, the plight of more than a million families who have lost their only child is raising concern.

BEIJING: Even as China gradually loosens its one-child policy to allow a second child if at least one parent is also a single child, the plight of more than a million families who have lost their only child is raising concern.

With many of these parents now ageing, experts are urging that more should be done to address their needs - an indirect consequence of the population policy.

63-year-old Wang Liqin discovered she was pregnant with her second child in 1978, just as China announced its one-child policy.

She said: "I was pregnant. To heed the government's call, I aborted that child and my first son became the only child."

Her only child died two years ago at the age of 35.

Mdm Wang said: "Now I feel unjust and aggrieved. My colleague about my age has three daughters. I don't even dare to see them. I only have one son and he is gone. It's too late for regrets. I'm already over 60, everything is too late."

More than a million families currently share the same situation as Mdm Wang.

According to statistics, about 76,000 families lose their only child every year.

Zhang Yi, Institute of Population and Labour Economics at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "Indeed when the policy was first designed, there wasn't enough consideration on the number of families bereaved of their only child. That has resulted in current policies being unable to satisfy the needs of this group."

In 2014, the Chinese government raised the amount of special monthly subsidy for families who have lost their only child.

But experts say that is not enough and more attention needs to be paid to the emotional needs of these elderly.

Xu Kun, founder of Charity for the Elderly, said: "In traditional Chinese culture, the loss of a child is the most painful. Having no heir is the gravest of three cardinal offences against filial piety. Once the child dies, they feel they have no more hope in life."

The Charity for the Elderly organises regular gatherings for these parents, particularly during festivities, which tend to stir memories of the past.

Nursing home admission has become another pressing problem as these parents age.

Without the financial means or a guarantor, as required by nursing homes in China, they often find difficulty in getting a place at a nursing home.

Charity groups have come in to fill the gap, but there are still concerns.

Ms Xu said: "Currently we send these elderly bereaved of their only child into mixed nursing homes. Every weekend they will see children visiting their parents, or bringing their parents home for the weekend. They will feel extremely upset. They will then hide indoors, refusing to come out. "

Moving forward, the charity is planning to set up nursing homes exclusively for the elderly who have lost their only child, to create an environment that may be more sensitive to their emotional vulnerabilities.

One such home that can house 10 people is being built in Tianjin.  

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