New child pol­icy in­creases births

China Daily European Weekly - - China News - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The univer­sal sec­ond-child pol­icy im­ple­mented early last year was a ma­jor fac­tor in rais­ing the num­ber of births in China to 17.86 mil­lion last year, an in­crease of 7.9 per­cent and the high­est an­nual num­ber since 2000, ac­cord­ing to the top health au­thor­ity.

The num­ber of new­borns in­creased by 1.31 mil­lion com­pared with 2015.

The por­tion of the births to cou­ples who al­ready had at least one child rose quickly to at least 45 per­cent last year, Yang Wen­zhuang, a divi­sion di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, said at a news con­fer­ence on Jan 22. The pro­por­tion was around 30 per­cent be­fore 2013.

“It demon­strates that the univer­sal sec­ond­child pol­icy came in time and worked ef­fec­tively,” Yang said.

“Some re­gions, mostly large cities in eastern ar­eas, be­gan record­ing sec­ond chil­dren as com­pris­ing more than half of lo­cal new­borns,” he added.

Yang ex­pected that by 2020, the num­ber of new births each year would stand be­tween 17 and 20 mil­lion in China, cit­ing ex­pert es­ti­mates.

Ma Xiaowei, deputy di­rec­tor of the com­mis­sion, said re­cently a baby boom trig­gered largely by the new pol­icy would prob­a­bly come within the next two years.

For that, the com­mis­sion plans to add 140,000 more ma­ter­nity health work­ers in the com­ing years, he said.

The top de­ci­sion-mak­ers in­ten­si­fied ef­forts in late 2013 to ad­just birth poli­cies in place for three decades that lim­ited most cou­ples to just one child, hop­ing to ad­dress ma­jor de­mo­graphic chal­lenges such as an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and a loom­ing la­bor short­age.

Start­ing in early 2014, cou­ples of which one per­son was an only child could have a sec­ond child. The univer­sal sec­ond-child pol­icy was im­ple­mented at the start of 2016.

“The long-term ef­fect of the univer­sal sec­ond­child pol­icy is very help­ful to China’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment,” says Yuan Xin, a pro­fes­sor of pop­u­la­tion stud­ies at Nankai Univer­sity in Tian­jin.

By 2050, the pol­icy is ex­pected to bring about an ex­tra 30 mil­lion work­ing-age peo­ple and re­duce the na­tion’s ag­ing rate by 2 per­cent, com­mis­sion pro­jec­tions show.

But match­ing poli­cies have not yet been re­fined to pro­vide good sup­port for cou­ples will­ing to have more than one child, par­tic­u­larly in terms of ma­ter­nity ed­u­ca­tion and health ser­vices, Yang con­ceded.

A 2015 sur­vey by the com­mis­sion found nearly 75 per­cent of re­spon­dents were re­luc­tant to have a sec­ond baby, largely due to eco­nomic bur­dens.

Other ma­jor con­cerns are age, par­ents’ ca­reer de­vel­op­ment and a lack of care­givers, it showed. Yuan sug­gested the gov­ern­ment in­tro­duce sup­port mea­sures like fa­vor­able tax poli­cies, pro­longed ma­ter­nity leave and ed­u­ca­tion for fam­i­lies with two chil­dren.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

SEC­OND-CHILD POL­ICY im­ple­mented early last year was a ma­jor fac­tor in rais­ing the num­ber of births in China to 17.86 mil­lion last year.

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