One county in China has been exempt from the country's controversial one-child policy for two decades. Additional rules about when parents may marry and have children have kept the county's birthrate lower than the national average.
"For the past 21 years, the citizens of Yicheng County, in the mining province of Shanxi, have been exempt from the 'one-child policy' on which the Chinese government has founded its bid to keep a lid on its vast population. They have been allowed to have two children. Yet Yicheng's birth-rate is lower than the national average."
"'If the whole country had adopted the Yicheng policy from the start, we could have kept China's population under 1.2 billion,' below the official target for 2000, says Tan Kejian, of Shanxi's provincial Academy of Social Sciences. 'And this policy was much easier for peasants to accept.'"
"Compared to the rest of the country, things are different for Yicheng's 310,000 inhabitants. Parents there can have two children, whatever the sex of their firstborn, if they adhere to certain conditions."
"Men may not marry before the age of 25 and women may not before age 23 without being fined. That's three years later for both sexes than the national policy. They must also wait six years before having a second baby. If they don't, they are fined 1,200 RMB (about $160) per year early, or about 20 percent of an average couple's income in the region, says Yang Chunxiang, the family-planning boss here in Ren Wang."
"'No one here is rich enough to pay that easily,' she says. There have been no third children in the village since the '80s, and few whose birth didn't track the six-year gap."