Fam­ily pol­icy can suc­ceed only with sup­port

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The pol­icy al­low­ing all cou­ples to have two chil­dren has been in ef­fect since Jan 1, but the au­thor­i­ties should im­prove poli­cies re­lated to preg­nancy and child­care to raise China’s to­tal fer­til­ity rate. Since 2000 China has been in the low­est-low fer­til­ity rate trap, with the ac­tual fer­til­ity rate be­ing less than 1.3. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, the to­tal fer­til­ity rate in 2011, 2012 and 2013 was 1.04, 1.26 and 1.23, far below the pop­u­la­tion re­place­ment rate, which has led to prob­lems such as an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, “empty nest” fam­i­lies, gen­der im­bal­ance and la­bor short­age.

The goal of re­form­ing the re­pro­duc­tive rights pol­icy should be to strengthen fam­i­lies against risks to achieve a mod­er­ate fer­til­ity rate (to­tal fer­til­ity rate be­tween 1.6 and to 2.5). And to pro­mote the new­fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, the au­thor­i­ties should de­vise a new­pop­u­la­tion con­cept based on pop­u­la­tion se­cu­rity. If, in the process, there is a baby boom, it will cre­ate more ad­van­tages than dis­ad­van­tages, and more op­por­tu­ni­ties than chal­lenges for the coun­try.

There­fore, China should work out a long-term road map for the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy, not only to al­low all cou­ples to have two chil­dren, but even­tu­ally make cou­ples’ wish to have more chil­dren a “per­sonal choice”. Per­haps this process could start dur­ing the 13th Five-Year­Plan (2016-20).

The per­cent­age of chil­dren in China’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion has been in de­cline since the 1980s, while that of se­nior cit­i­zens has been in­creas­ing. The third na­tional census, held in 1982, showed peo­ple aged be­tween 0 and 14 years ac­counted for 33.6 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion, while those be­tween 65 and above added up to 4.9 per­cent. In 2000, the per­cent­ages were 22.9 and 7, and in 2010, 16.6 and 8.87. This shows the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of China’s pop­u­la­tion has been largely un­der­mined.

The low fer­til­ity rate in China can­not be re­versed in a short time. A Na­tional Bureau of Sta­tis­tics’ sur­vey in 2014 showed 43 per­cent of the tar­geted group (cou­ples ei­ther of whom were the only child of their par­ents and thus were el­i­gi­ble to have two chil­dren) was will­ing to have a se­cond child. But a Na­tion­alHealth and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion sur­vey in early 2015 showed only 39.6 per­cent of the el­i­gi­ble cou­ples wanted to have two chil­dren.

Till the end ofMay 2015, about 1.45 mil­lion cou­ples from across the coun­try ap­plied to have a se­cond child, and about 1.39 mil­lion of such ap­pli­ca­tions were ap­proved. But the in­crease in the num­ber of new­borns de­pends on whether th­ese cou­ples will re­ally have a se­cond child, which, in turn, will be de­ter­mined by their fi­nan­cial con­di­tions. Only when cou­ples de­sirous of hav­ing two chil­dren ac­tu­ally have them can they help grad­u­ally cor­rect the pop­u­la­tion im­bal­ance in China.

But in­stead of wait­ing for such a de­vel­op­ment to take place, the au­thor­i­ties should im­prove ma­ter­nal and child­care ser­vices, and poli­cies re­lated to them such as risk as­sess­ment. Andthe cen­tra­land­lo­cal au­thor­i­tieshave to mon­i­toran­de­val­u­ate the new­born­pop­u­la­tio­nand­fer­til­ity rate to en­sure med­i­ca­land­health re­sources are prop­erly dis­trib­uted.

China could learn from the child­bear­ing wel­fare poli­cies of coun­tries such asSwe­de­nandCanada, andim­ple­ment­them in the coun­try, al­beit with­Chi­nese char­ac­ter­is­tics. Aro­bust na­tional child­bear­ing pol­icy, af­ter all, can help ease the bur­den of fam­i­lies that­want­to­have two chil­drenandthus im­prove China’s dwin­dling de­mo­graphic div­i­dends.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor at the Pop­u­la­tion Re­search In­sti­tute of Pek­ing Univer­sity.

The coun­try’s bank­ing sec­tor has long been dom­i­nated by large State-owned banks which tend to lend to big State-owned com­pa­nies en­joy­ing im­plicit guar­an­tee from the govern­ment. But they have gen­er­ally failed to meet the fi­nanc­ing de­mand of many smaller com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als, for tra­di­tional due dili­gence of­ten makes it too ex­pen­sive to ac­cu­rately eval­u­ate small com­pa­nies’ cred­it­wor­thi­ness.

For­tu­nately, the re­cent rise of In­ter­net banks in China has come to the res­cue. It is re­ported that MYbank, a pri­vate len­der backed by E-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba, has lent a to­tal of 45 bil­lion yuan (around $6.88 bil­lion) in just eight months to farm­ers, mer­chants on Alibaba’s on­line mar­ket­place, restau­rant own­ers and mom-and-pop stores, ex­tend­ing loans to 800,000 bor­row­ers that have trou­ble ac­cess­ing fi­nanc­ing through tra­di­tional banks.

Alibaba’s ri­val, Ten­cent, also runs a pri­vate len­der calledWeBank that fo­cused on con­sumer credit and wealth man­age­ment.

Th­ese new­banks are among a group of pri­vate lenders ap­proved by the Chi­nese bank­ing reg­u­la­tor un­der a trial pro­gram to en­cour­age lend­ing to small and pri­vate busi­nesses, as well as to ru­ral res­i­dents.

The com­pet­i­tive edge of such In­ter­net banks is ob­vi­ous. On the one hand, nei­ther len­der has a phys­i­cal pres­ence, which means both can pro­vide ser­vices on­line or through mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions with lower fixed costs. On the other hand, both pro­ject their abil­ity to ef­fi­ciently gather in­for­ma­tion on clients’ cred­it­wor­thi­ness based on their on­line ac­tiv­i­ties.

Since such In­ter­net banks are rel­a­tively new, they can­not claim to be well-pre­pared for all the risks that the bank­ing sec­tor could face be­fore China’s eco­nomic growth bot­toms out. But their ad­van­tage in pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial ser­vices to small com­pa­nies that get lit­tle or no at­ten­tion from tra­di­tional banks should be made full use of to help trans­late the ac­com­moda­tive mon­e­tary pol­icy into a real and di­rect boost for small busi­nesses.

If a boom in small busi­nesses, most of which are in the ser­vice sec­tor and can cre­ate jobs to ab­sorb the shock of the re­duc­tion in in­dus­trial over­ca­pac­ity, is vi­tal to the suc­cess of China’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, more In­ter­net-based fi­nan­cial in­no­va­tion should be en­cour­aged to ben­e­fit small busi­nesses while re­lated reg­u­la­tions are up­dated grad­u­ally.

The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. zhuqi­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY

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