Two-child policy has little effect on birthrate

By Guo Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 1, 2017
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A little girl sits on a stone in Sanlitun, Beijing‘s Eastern Chaoyang District, accompanied by her parent in early spring. [Photo by Guo Yiming /]
A little girl sits on a stone in Sanlitun, Beijing's eastern Chaoyang District, accompanied by her parent in early spring. [File photo by Guo Yiming/]

China's birthrate is still lower than expected and even declined in some provinces despite the country relaxing its four-decade one-child policy last year, statistics showed.

According to a sampled investigation based on one percent of the country's population, the birthrate in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Gansu Province dipped in 2016, while most other provincial-level regions showed modest rises but lower-than-expected growth.

The easing of the one-child policy, which was amended in early 2016 to allow all Chinese families to have two children amid a shrinking labour force and rapidly aging population, helped push the number of births in the country to 17.86 million, an increase of 1.31 million over the previous year.

But the number of couples eligible to have a second baby was 90 million.

Almost 60 percent families do not want to have a second baby in Shaanxi Province, while 65.5 percent in Sichuan Province have no plans for another child, according to surveys conducted by provincial statistics bureaus.

People just don't want to have more than one baby, which makes it hard to increase the overall birthrate, said Jiang Baoquan, a professor at the Institute for Population and Development Studies, Xi'an Jiaotong University.

High costs and a change in people's mindset may contribute to an unwillingness to bear a second baby, said Dr. Pan Jianlei of Beijing Administrative College. If this trend continues, the government may have to come up with other policy measures to deal with the country's aging population problem.

The decades-old policy has certainly left a mark on Chinese society and people's lives. Since 1979, the Chinese government has been promoting the virtue of bearing only one kid that has been credited with helping foster China's surging economy by slowing population growth.

Amid a wide range of social concerns, the next step would be to change people's belief on family planning and establish a childbearing-friendly atmosphere by providing all-round healthcare support, forming a free compulsory education system all the way from kindergarten to senior high school and offering child-bearing subsidies, said Jiang.

Another unintended consequence produced by family planning restrictions is gender imbalance. According to Beijing News report, there will be 30 million men unable to find a female spouse in the next 30 years.

Experts say the newly-introduced two-child policy may not be able to mitigate the surplus of single men in the short term, which is partly driven by gender inequality and the country's long-standing preference for boys. What's really feasible is for the country to encourage marriage services, reduce marriage and child-bearing costs and push for reform in immigration policy so that more foreign women can work and live in China, said Mao Shoulong, a professor of public policy at Renmin University of China (RUC).

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