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Editor’s note: this article was translated and edited from iask.ca, and discusses what happens to the money that is collected from fees for parents who exceed the one-child policy. The so-called “social maintenance fees” are reportedly supposed to make up for “social resources” that are taken up when a second child is born, however there has never really been any clarification regarding what these fees are and where the money goes. As a result, one lawyer from Zhejiang recently sent a letter to the family planning committees of all of China’s provinces requesting them to publish their financial data.
For most Chinese people, exceeding the one-child policy means a pretty hefty fine. The fines, nicknamed “social maintenance fees”, generate an annual revenue of about 20 billion RMB for the country. But what is the money obtained from these fines being spent on? Wu Youshui, a business lawyer of the Bijian Lawyer Office of Zhejiang, recently sent the finance departments of the family planning commissions in all of China’s 31 provinces a letter asking to publicly display their audit records for the social maintenance fees collected in 2012.
A request for publicizing financial data
July 11 is World Population Day. It was on this day that Wu sent his request. “It’s been so many years now, and every year so much money is collected from these fines. But where does it all go?” Wu stated that according to the various family planning departments, these social maintenance fees do not constitute fines, but are rather compensations paid to make up for the public resources used from having more than one child.
Wu explained that he has focused his attention on the problems revolving around China’s one-child policy for a long time. However, accurate financial data is difficult to obtain from the websites of the various financial departments. This seems to go against regulations regarding the publicizing of such data with ordinary citizens. Interestingly, other departments and social organizations are also expected to actively release such information publicly. As a result, Wu has requested that these financial departments release the 2012 figures for how much was received, what the budgets and spending for social maintenance were, as well as details regarding general audit data.
Social maintenance fees – an obscure term cemented in law
Reportedly the term “social maintenance fees” first appeared in normative documents in the year 2000. In March that year, there were eight documents issued by the state that mentioned the implementation of the same term. Also that year, the Ministry of Finance and the previous incarnation of the State Family Planning Commission issued a joint document which saw the previously-named “fees for exceeding the one-child policy” be changed to “social maintenance fees”. This meant that these payments were seen as “administrative charges” instead of fines.
In 2001, the new Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China was introduced. Article 41 of the new ruling read, “Citizens who give birth to babies not in compliance with article 18 of this law (which emphasizes that couples are advocated to have one child each) shall pay a social maintenance fee prescribed by law.” This marked the concrete establishment of the term “social maintenance fees” in major law in China. However, in the Family Planning Law, there is no explanation as to what “social maintenance fees” are. After the law was implemented, the State Family Planning Commission explained the term as, “Fees that must be paid by those who give birth to more than one child. These are not fines, but economic compensation paid to society, as new births take up a lot of public and social resources.” Wu Youshui believes that the term “compensation for social resources” isn’t very clear.
The law interpreted differently across the country
In September 2002, the aforementioned law was put into affect nationwide, with the same fees and specifics of the ruling being the same for every province. Despite this, there were major differences from province to province in the methods in which fees were collected, the amount of the fees and the budget and spending of the finance departments of various provinces. The majority of provinces also had regulations regarding babies born out of wedlock. As long as there was a birth certificate, and regardless of whether a child was born in or out of wedlock, the fees still applied.
Some provinces also expected people who gave birth to more than one child to pay the fees even if there was not a legal birth certificate for the second child. Couples who obtained a second child through means of adoption were also scrutinized and made to pay the fees. Wu believes that these discrepancies go against peoples’ right to give birth, and also contradicts the reasoning behind the social maintenance fees.
Wu Youshui also stated that that national regulations regarding how the fees were collected and then spent differs from area to area. For various county level governments, as much as 80% to 90% of the money collected from the fees was returned straight back to the local family planning committees rather than spent on making up for “social resources”. “This means that for many areas, local planning committee officials are happy to ignore the one-child policy but are committed to collecting the fees. It is very difficult to check whether or not the money from these fees is used for making up for these social resources,” explained Wu.
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Keywords: social maintenance fees one-child policy
We’ve all seen it, everywhere we go, nearly every day: an American man with a Chinese woman on his arm. We’ve also heard the stories from the foreign man’s perspective about all the cultural differences and the interesting exchanges. But what do these relationships look like from the other side? ...
Seems the fine is not high or not high enough, like every second chinese on the street running around with at least 2 kids because the first one was a girl. Does this fine actually applies for the poor people too? So many poor people have more than one child but I don't know how they can afford it.
"For most Chinese people, exceeding the one-child policy means a pretty hefty fine." I cannot speak for all of China. Using my own eyes the woman in the street here where I currently am have 2 to 3 children openly. I am in contact with many Government employees, and THESE are the ONLY ones following the policy.
May be those women walking around with more than one child are from the rich elite which is a great growth item in China. Plenty of that group pay only "pocket money" as a fine for an extra child. May be there is an upside to this as the "little emperor" symptom is wrecking [?] and changing community in China. The poor in the countryside still suffer the ravages of this policy, with forced abortions as well as fines. Reducing Chinas population is a must but is it is a shame that the policy is being implemented by the communist[?] party
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