A new family planning policy was implemented last year, which, in principle, allows every couple to have two children. On Jan 22, the National Health and Family Planning Commission announced that over 45 percent of the newborns that year were the second or third children in their family, which was around 30 percent before 2016. China Youth Daily comments:
Some experts say that 45 percent is much higher than 30 percent so the policy is working. However, considering that many couples had “illegally” given birth to a second or third child before 2016, the growth is probably not so significant.
On the contrary, many couples are reportedly unwilling to give birth to a second child. In some cities, the local governments reportedly “prompt” couples to give birth to second children.
The new family planning policy is beneficial but it needs to be better implemented.
A major cause of that contradictory phenomenon is the heavy financial burden young couples face. With the ongoing urbanization process, many young people from rural areas migrate to big cities, only to find the cost of living is high and they can’t afford to buy a house. When their apartments become overcrowded and they have to struggle to raise a child, it is natural for them to refrain from having more children.
That happened to developed countries during their years of urbanization, too. As a response, many of them adopted supportive policies to encourage people to have more children. Such policies include subsidies for children’s education and their living expenses, longer maternity leave, as well as better protection of pregnant employees.
As the second largest economy in the world, China is now rich enough to adopt similar policies and provide more support to the couples of child-bearing age. Housing, medical, education, employment, even old pension policies could all be adjusted to help.
Ma Li, a famous demographic scholar, was quoted as saying that a baby boom is expected to come about five years after the new family planning policy comes out. However, she also added that in order for that boom to come true, the State needs to take supportive policies.
She is right. We hope the State will do more to make the policy more beneficial.