- BBC News World
The Chinese government announced that it will allow couples to have up to three children, after census data showed a sharp drop in birth rates.
China scrapped its decades-long one-child policy in 2016 and replaced it with a two-child limit. But this has failed to lead to a sustained increase in births.
The cost of raising children in cities has deterred many Chinese couples from having more children.
The recent measure was approved by President Xi Jinping at a politburo meeting, state media said.
This will include “support measures, which will lead to improving the population structure of our country, complying with the nation’s strategy of actively facing the aging population and maintaining the advantage of the endowment of human resources,” Xinhua said. .
How are people reacting?
“If relaxing the birth policy was effective, the current two-child policy should have proven effective as well,” Hao Zhou, a senior economist at Commerzbank, told Reuters.
“But who wants to have three children? Young people could have at most two children. The fundamental problem is that living costs are too high and the pressures of life are too great, “he added.
Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management, told the same agency that the immediate impact “is likely to be positive but small.”
“The long-term impact depends on whether the government can successfully reduce the cost of raising children, particularly education and housing,” the economist added.
On social media, some Chinese also seemed less than enthusiastic about the new measures.
“[Podemos tener] three children, but the problem is that I don’t even want to have one, “said a user of the Weibo microblogging site.
“Do you know that most young people even find it exhausting to take care of themselves?”
A Beijing resident who spoke to the BBC prior to the announcement echoed these thoughts, declaring that she wanted to “live my life.” without the “constant worries” of raising a child.
What did the census say?
The census, released earlier this month, showed that around 12 million babies were born last year, a significant decrease from 18 million in 2016, and the lowest number of births recorded since the 1960s.
In the census, conducted in late 2020, some seven million pollsters went door-to-door to collect information from Chinese households.
Given the large number of people surveyed, the census is considered the most comprehensive source of information on China’s population, which is important for future planning.
After the results are published, many expected China to relax its family policy rules.
What were China’s previous policies?
Even in 2016, when the government ended its controversial one-child policy and allowed couples to have two children, it failed to reverse the decline in the country’s birth rate despite an increase in the two years after. .
Yue Su, chief economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, notes: “While the second-child policy had a positive impact on the birth rate, it was short-term in nature.”
Over the years, China’s demographic trends have been largely determined by the one-child policy, which was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth.
Families who violated the rules faced fines, loss of employment, and sometimes forced abortions.
The one-child policy also caused a serious gender imbalance in the country, in a culture that historically favors boys over girls.
“This poses problems for the marriage market, especially for men with fewer socioeconomic resources,” explains Dr Mu Zheng from the department of sociology at the National University of Singapore.
Can China completely lift birth restrictions?
Experts had speculated before the last census that birth restrictions could be lifted entirely, although China appears to be proceeding cautiously.
But others have pointed out that such a move could lead to “other problems,” such as the huge disparity between city dwellers and the rural population.
As much as women living in expensive cities like Beijing and Shanghai want to delay or avoid pregnancy, those living in the countryside are likely to follow the tradition and want large families, they indicate.
“If we liberate the policy, people in the countryside might be more willing to give birth than those in the cities, and there could be other problems,” a Chinese political source told Reuters, adding that this could lead to poverty. and labor pressures among rural families.
Experts had previously warned that any impact on China’s population, such as a decline, could have a huge effect on other parts of the world.
Dr. Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the United States, explains:
“China’s economy has grown very rapidly and many industries in the world depend on China. The scope of the impact of a population decline would be very wide” –
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.