China announces it will allow couples to have up to three children after census data showed a sharp drop in birth rates.
China abandoned its decades-old one-child policy in 2016 and replaced it with a two-child limit, resulting in a steady increase in births.
The cost of raising children in cities prevents many Chinese couples.
President Xi Jinping has approved the latest move at a meeting of senior Communist Party officials.
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According to Xinhua News Agency, it is “a supportive measure that improves the demographic structure of our country, enables a national strategy to tackle the age of the population and protect human resource benefits”.
However, the human rights organization Amnesty International says the policy violates sexual and reproductive rights as before.
“Governments should not control the number of children. Instead of ‘improving’ its birth policy, China should respect the lifestyle choices of the people, end all forms of aggression and punish family planning decisions,” said Joshua Rosenweek, the organization’s China committee.
In addition, some experts were skeptical of its impact.
“If the birth rate reduction had been effective, the current two-child policy would have been effective,” Howe Shaw, a senior economist at Commerce Bank, told Reuters.
“But who wants to have three children? Young people can have a maximum of two children. The basic problem is that the cost of living is too high and the pressures of life are too high,” he says.
Written by Stephen McDonnell Reporter in China
On a rainy and dull day in Beijing, I buy a coffee when the news comes.
As headlines fly on their screens people begin to see their phones beeping and snoring: China to allow couples to have three children.
This is great news in a country that does not suddenly start producing more children when a child policy turns into two.
In fact, many wonder how the three-child policy refers to more children when there is no two-child version, and why restrictions on births are in effect due to the demographic trend.
Very good questions.
One would think that at least some parents would have three children ready to have two.
However, I have asked many young Chinese couples about this and it is difficult to find people who want big families these days.
Generations of Chinese have lived without siblings and become accustomed to small families – wealth has less need to have multiple children to become family support workers, and many children say young professionals want to provide more benefits to a child than distribute their income.
What does the census say?
The census, released this month, shows that about 12 million babies were born last year – a significant drop from 18 million in 2016, and the lowest number of births since the 1960s.
The census was conducted in late 2020 – seven million enumerators went door-to-door to collect information.
Considering the number of people surveyed, it is considered to be the most comprehensive resource in China’s population, which is important for future planning.
Following the release of the census results, it was generally expected that China would relax the rules of its family policy.
Kerry Allen, China Media Analyst
The major Chinese media do much of the “three-child policy.”
People’s Daily, CCTV TV and Xinhua News Agency today posted happy cartoon images of children on their social media pages announcing that the new policy has “arrived”.
This is the main topic of the already popular social networking site Sina Weibo – posts referring to the new policy have already garnered tens of thousands of views and hundreds of thousands of comments.
More than 180,000 users commented on the trusted Xinhua article, and those with “preferences” did not welcome the policy.
“There are so many big pressures in life right now,” says one user, “young people don’t want to have children.”
Many people talk about the fact that people who go on maternity / maternity leave do not have the modern day “workplace hassles” and even the most basic reproductive benefits.
In a shrinking labor market, young Chinese are now accepting long-term work. There is more overtime and more work.
Meanwhile, more women choose to pursue education and work than to immigrate early to start a family.
What are China’s previous policies?
The government’s 2016 decision to allow couples to have two children failed to reverse the country’s declining birth rate, despite an immediate two-year increase.
Yu Su, a senior economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, explains, “Although the second child policy had a positive impact on the birth rate, it has become short-lived.”
Over the years, China’s population trends have largely been shaped by a one – child policy, introduced in 1979 to slow population growth.
Families who break the rules face fines, job losses and sometimes forced abortions.
A child policy has led to severe gender inequality in the country. The traditional preference for male children led to the abandonment of large numbers of girls or their placement in orphanages, as well as cases of gender-selected abortion and female infanticide.
“This causes problems in the marriage market, especially for men with low socio-economic resources,” said Dr. Mu Zheng of the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore.
Can birth controls be lifted across China?
Before the last Chinese census, experts had speculated that birth control restrictions would be completely removed, but China seems to be wary.
But others argued that such action would lead to “other problems”, pointing to the huge disparity between urban and rural residents.
While women living in expensive cities like Beijing and Shanghai may want to delay or avoid births, they say those in rural areas will follow tradition and prefer larger families.
“If we liberate politics, people in rural areas may be more willing to be born than those in cities, and there may be other problems,” a political native previously told Reuters, noting that this could lead to poverty and employment pressures among rural families. .
Experts had warned that any impact, such as China’s declining population, could have a major impact on other parts of the world.
Dr Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “The Chinese economy is growing very fast and many industries around the world are dependent on China.