Family policy can succeed only with support
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. email@example.com