With one of the lowest birth rates in the world, China’s population is aging. China’s birth rate in 2021 was 1.16, far below the international standard of 2.1 for keeping a stable population. And, it reported its lowest number of births since 1950 last year. So far, government efforts to encourage the population to have more babies haven’t been working. But why aren’t Chinese people having children? It pretty much comes down to the high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility. Also, the effects of China’s longstanding one-child policy, which ended just in 2016, persist.
Now, the Chinese government is introducing new policies to try and boost the national birth rate. So far, it’s brought forward tax deductions and other incentives to encourage having children and begun addressing the high cost of raising a child. Other policies will include enhanced medical insurance, housing subsidies and a curb on expensive private tutoring. Plus, unmarried mothers will be eligible for equal maternity benefits.
The government has pledged to make fertility treatments more affordable and to discourage abortions that aren’t considered “medically necessary.” But, it hasn’t explicitly defined the terms of what a medically-necessary abortion is or how it plans to discourage them, which concerns some reproductive and women’s rights groups.
The National Health Authority said the measures are necessary for “promoting the long-term balanced development of the population.”
“All economic and social policies have revolved around mainstream families with only one child … so young people protest by not having children, and Shanghai youth shout ‘we are the last generation,'” said Yi Fuxian, obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Only after making up for each shortcoming can the fertility rate be increased.”
“Those of us who are only children born in the 1980s have to take on all of the burden,” one unidentified user in Guangdong wrote on Chinese social media, according to Bloomberg. “We don’t have a house or a car, and we certainly can’t afford a child.” Another user on China’s Weibo wrote, “Finally, we have some progress.” And another said, “This is the first step in liberating women’s maternity rights,” about the new policies.