How China is seeking to boost its falling birth rate

January 21, 2023 - 2:07 PM
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A baby stroller is seen as mothers play with their children at a public area in downtown Shanghai November 19, 2013. (Reuters/Carlos Barria/File Photo)

China saw its population fall by roughly 850,000 last year – its first drop in six decades that marks the start of an expected long-term decline in citizen numbers with major economic consequences.

Following are key facts about the demographic crisis.

One-child policy

– China implemented a one-child policy from 1980 to 2015 in response to government concerns about the social and economic consequences of continued rapid population growth.

– The policy, which limited families to one child, was strictly enforced with violators fined and mothers often forced to have abortions. It resulted in many gender selective abortions due to a historical and cultural preference for families to have boys.

– China has said that the policy averted 400 million births.

– From 2016, all married couples were allowed to have a second child.

– In 2021, Beijing said it would allow couples to have three children.

Incentives

In addition to the one-child policy, high education costs and limited childcare options have put many Chinese off having more than one child or even having any at all.

To encourage more births, local governments have since 2021 rolled out incentives, including tax deductions, longer maternity leave and housing subsidies.

That year, Beijing also banned private-tutoring companies from making a profit from teaching core subjects and offering classes on weekends or holidays. The industry had charged exorbitant prices.

Other steps include:

– China’s National Health Commission in August last year urged central and provincial governments to increase spending on reproductive health and improve childcare services nationwide.

– China’s state council said last year it was rolling out new measures to encourage flexible working hours and the option to work from home for employees with children.

– The State Council said last year that local authorities must offer preferential housing for families with multiple children such as providing bigger public housing apartments.

– Shenzhen, a city in southern China, gives couples having a third child or more an annual allowance of over 6,000 yuan ($890) until the child turn three.

– In Jinan, the capital city of China’s Shandong province, mothers who have a second or third child can receive a monthly subsidy of 600 yuan until the child is three.

($1 = 6.7044 Chinese yuan)

—Reporting by Farah Master and the Beijing newsroom; editing by Edwina Gibbs