China now brainstorming ways to boost its low birth rate after issuing decades-long one-child policy

Streaming HUBMarch 18, 2023

Worried about China’s declining population, the government’s political advisers have made more than 20 recommendations to boost the birth rate, although experts say it is best to slow population decline.

China dug itself into a demographic hole largely through its one-child policy implemented between 1980 and 2015. Authorities are set to increase the limit to three in 2021, but couples are reluctant to have children in the time of COVID even while staying at home.

Young people cite high childcare and education costs, low income, a weak social safety net and gender disparities as discouraging factors.

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From subsidies for families raising their first child to expanding free public education and better public education, proposals to boost the birth rate at the annual meeting of China’s People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) this month Including second and third child. access to fertility treatment.

Experts took so many proposals as a positive sign that China is approaching its aging and declining demographics with urgency, after data last year showed a population decline for the first time in six decades.

“You can’t reverse the downward trend,” said Xiujian Peng, senior research fellow at the Center for Policy Studies at the University of Victoria in Australia. “But without a fertility promotion policy, fertility will decline as well.


A boy holds a girl as she drives a toy car at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China on June 1, 2021.

A boy holds a girl as she drives a toy car at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China on June 1, 2021. (Reuters/Eli Song)

Peng said a proposal by CPPCC member Jiang Shengnan to ensure that young people work only eight hours per day so they have time to “fall in love, get married and have children” is important. Women should not work much.

He said that giving incentives to have the first child could encourage couples to have at least one child. Many provinces currently only subsidize second and third children.

To help ease the pressure on young families, the National Health Commission (NHC) on Wednesday released draft regulations that would allow eligible individuals to run day care operations for up to five children up to the age of three.

World population expected to exceed 7.9 billion on New Year’s Day; an increase of about 1% from 2022

China’s birth rate fell last year to 6.77 births per 1,000 people from 7.52 in 2021, the lowest on record.

Demographers warn that China will get old before it gets rich, as its workforce shrinks and indebted local governments spend more on their aging populations.

Experts also praised the proposal to scrap all family planning measures, including the three-child limit and the requirement for women to be legally married to register their children.

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Arjan Gajonka, associate professor at the London School of Economics, said financial incentives were not enough and that policies focusing on gender equality and better employment rights for women would be likely to have a greater impact.

Experts said maternity leave paid by the government rather than the employer, such as the CPPCC’s proposal, would help reduce discrimination against women, while increasing paternity leave would remove barriers for fathers to take on more parenting responsibilities .

Demographer Yi Fuxian doubts whether any measure will have a significant impact on its own, saying China needs a “paradigm revolution of its entire economy, society, politics and diplomacy to boost fertility”.


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