China encourages couples to have a SECOND child after the country’s birth rate dropped
- Regional governments around China want families to have more children
- Eligible couples may enjoy reduced hospital bills and longer paid leave
- China’s birth rate hit a ‘shockingly low level’ last year, according to a scholar
- Beijing’s two-child policy didn’t prompt more babies to be born as expected
Chinese authorities have launched a series of incentive policies to encourage couples to have a second baby in a bid to boost the country’s birth rate.
Beijing abandoned the controversial one-child policy in 2016 to allow all families to have two children – a move aiming at tackling its rapidly ageing population.
But contrary to the government’s expectation, China’s birth rate didn’t increase; instead it dropped to what scholars referred to as a ‘shockingly low level’ last year.
Cities around China have rolled out policies to encourage couples to have babies (file photos)
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The surprising outcome has prompted the government to roll out new bonus policies in recent months for eligible couples, hoping they would consider having more than one child.
For about 40 years time, most couples in China were only allowed to have one child – a mandatory policy its ruling Communist Party imposed in the late 1970s in order to control the population.
But now even if parents are legally entitled to have more, many simply don’t want to because they say raising a child is too expensive.
The incentive policies, released by regional authorities for couple living in the area, come in different forms, but many involve government subsidisation.
Each couple in China is allowed to have a maximum of two children at present (file photo)
For example, all of the ‘second child’ in Xianning in central China could enjoy free tuition fees when they go to the kindergarten, according to a latest government document released in early August.
Couples in Xianning could enjoy extra housing benefits from the government and a better mortgage rate while buying a new home, reported BJNews. Second-time mothers there could also have an extended maternity leave up to six months, the report said.
The Shihezi city in north-west China’s Xinjiang Province launched five new incentives in June for families who are having a second child, including up to 1,000 yuan (£113) subsidisation to help pay off the mother’s hospital bills, reported The Paper.
What is China’s one-child policy?
A young Chinese mother watches her child in front of a sign reading ‘birth control is a basic state policy of our country’ in Beijing on July 23, 2002
A mandatory one-child rule was launched in late 1970s by Beijing when China’s population was fast increasing – due to a post-war baby boom encouraged by Chairman Mao.
It was said the one-child policy was aimed at keeping the Chinese population under 1.2 billion at the end of the 20th century.
The ruthless policy was strictly enforced in urban areas. If a woman was pregnant with her second child, she would be asked to abort it.
If the couple decided to keep it, a fine would be applied – usually three times the family’s annual income.
Selective demographics in the country, such as rural residents and minority groups, however, were not bound by the policy.
Last year, the births in mainland China fell by 3.5 per cent to 17.23 million, compared to 17.86 million in 2016; while the birth rate – the number of live births per thousand of population per year – dropped from 12.95 in 2016 to 12.43, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China.
In comparison, the birth rate of India – the world’s second populous country after China – was 19 per thousand people in 2017. India’s population is expected to surpass that of China in 2024, according to a UN forecast.
China’s birth rate was shockingly low, said Chinese economist Ma Guangyuan in a column earlier this year.
In the article published on Sina.com, Ma claimed that Chinese couples’ were extremely unwilling to have a second baby. He claimed that only 10 per cent of families in Beijing chose to have two children – even though a previous survey had shown that 60 per cent of them would.
Ma called on the Chinese government to abolish its birth-control policy once for all.
A new stamp (above) with three piglets has sparked speculation of a new birth-control policy
Last week, People’s Daily published a column, urging its government to resolve the issue of the country’s low birth rate – an unusual move by the state newspaper. The column argued that ‘having children is not just a family’s matter, but a country’s matter’.
The author wrote: ‘Having children has a special meaning to the Chinese people.’
It added: ‘Faced with a low birth rate, the government should adopt more effective measures to resolve the issue in order to satisfy people’s desire for a good life.’
It has been suggested that China could drop its two-child policy in 2019.
Speculation emerged last week after the Chinese authority released a set of new Chinese stamp showing a happy pig family with three piglets. Critics claimed that it could mean the government would roll out a three-child policy.
China’s birth rate dropped to 12.43 per thousand people in 2017 (file photo), causing concerns
Earlier in May, insiders told Bloomberg that China was planning to abolish all kinds of limit on how many children a family can have.
The sources claimed that the State Council of China, which implements and manages the country’s family-planning policy, had commissioned research on the repercussions of ending the birth-control rule.
China has 1.4 billion people, accounting for 19 per cent of the global population, according to the United Nations.
In 2016, China’s Communist Party replaced its one-child policy with a two-child policy. Before that, the government had demanded married couples have only one child for nearly 40 years.
What problems has the one-child policy caused in China?
For about 40 years, couples in China were only allowed to have one child (file photo)
The one-child policy, combined with a traditional Chinese preference for having sons, has created a gender imbalance so severe that as of 2015 there were 117 boys born for every 100 girls.
The one-child policy has also left China with a ticking time bomb: a rapidly ageing population.
The ambitious nation has apparently ‘got old before getting rich’, a frustrating factor for the world’s second largest economy.
China is ageing more rapidly than almost any country in recent history, reported Forbes, citing the United Nations.
By 2050, China could face a serious labour shortage as the country’s dependency ratio for retirees could rise as high as 44 per cent by mid 21st century, according to the same Forbes article.
China had 222 million people aged 60 years or older as of 2015, according toXinhua News Agency. The figure accounted for about 17 per cent of the nation’s entire population.
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