Two-child pol­icy has de­mo­graphic lim­its

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The new fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy al­low­ing all cou­ples to have two chil­dren took ef­fect on Jan 1, but the num­ber of new­borns this year has been less than ex­pected. The to­tal num­ber of new­borns is ex­pected to be just over 17.5 mil­lion, which is only 950,000 more than the 16.55 mil­lion in 2015, and 630,000 more than the 16.87 mil­lion in 2014.

The es­ti­mated num­ber of new­borns as a re­sult of the new fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy ac­counts for 24 per­cent of the births in 2016. Given that about 90 mil­lion cou­ples are el­i­gi­ble to have a sec­ond child, the ac­tual num­ber of sec­ond­born chil­dren will ac­count for only 1 per­cent of the new­borns in 2016.

The gen­eral trend in China is one of a grad­ual de­cline in the to­tal fer­til­ity rate, and the con­tin­u­ous low birth rate has be­come a new de­mo­graphic nor­mal. Ac­cord­ing to the na­tional sam­ple sur­vey in 2015, which cov­ered 1 per­cent of China’s pop­u­la­tion, the to­tal fer­til­ity rate has de­clined to as low as 1.05.

Af­ter the pre­vi­ous change in the fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy — which al­lowed cou­ples to have two chil­dren if ei­ther of them was the only child of their par­ents — grad­u­ally took ef­fect in 2014, there was no baby-boom as some peo­ple had feared. Of the 11 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble cou­ples ac­cord­ing to the pre­vi­ous pol­icy, only 920,000 ap­plied by the end of 2014 to have a sec­ond child; the fig­ure in­creased to 1.39 mil­lion by May 2015.

The fig­ures show an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese cou­ples may not be in­ter­ested in hav­ing a sec­ond child. And the fac­tors re­spon­si­ble for that — such as strict birth con­trol in the past decades, low fer­til­ity de­sire and the huge cost of rais­ing chil­dren — have left China star­ing at a low fer­til­ity rate trap.

Chi­nese peo­ple’s fer­til­ity rate is gen­er­ally be­tween 1.6 to 1.8, which means the pol­icy that al­lows all cou­ples to have two chil­dren is not likely to achieve its goal. Given the ris­ing liv­ing and hous­ing costs, cou­ples in gen­eral de­lay the de­ci­sion to have even their first child, with many not even think­ing of hav­ing a sec­ond child.

In other words, cou­ples who de­sire to have two chil­dren com­prise just a small per­cent­age of all the child­bear­ing-age cou­ples, and those who truly have a sec­ond child are much fewer than those who have the de­sire to do so. The pol­i­cy­made fer­til­ity rate is about 1.8, the wanted fer­til­ity rate is less than 1.5 and the ac­tual fer­til­ity rate is less than 1.3.

Al­though the num­ber of new­borns is ex­pected to in­crease in the short term, the fer­til­ity and birth rates will re­main low. For in­stance, in East China’s Zhejiang prov­ince, 152,000 cou­ples el­i­gi­ble to have a sec­ond child ac­cord­ing to the pre­vi­ous fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy had ap­plied by the end of 2015 to do so. But they ac­counted for just about 20 per­cent of all the el­i­gi­ble cou­ples in the prov­ince.

In the long run, the num­ber of new­borns rel­a­tive to Chi- na’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion will re­mark­ably de­crease be­cause of the low birth rate, as the num­ber of women of child­bear­ing age de­clines. In the decade from 2015 to 2025, the pop­u­la­tion of women be­tween 24 to 29 years old, con­sid­ered ideal child­bear­ing age, will de­cline from 73.87 mil­lion to 41.16 mil­lion. This means the num­ber of new­borns will de­crease by a half even if the fer­til­ity rate re­mains un­changed in the next decade.

In the next few decades, there­fore, China will face the chal­lenge of shrink­ing and ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

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

The devel­op­ment of in­ter­net­based char­ity ac­tiv­i­ties has been amaz­ing this year. Three land­mark de­vel­op­ments — leg­is­la­tion, the to­tal amount of on­line do­na­tion, and ra­tio­nal pub­lic dis­cus­sions — de­serve the credit for the progress.

The an­nual ses­sion of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the top leg­is­la­ture, in 2016 passed the Char­ity Law, which in­cludes on­line char­ity law. And even though China lags a lit­tle be­hind some other coun­tries in terms of mod­ern char­ity leg­is­la­tion, it is tak­ing the lead in on­line char­ity ac­tiv­i­ties and mak­ing ef­forts to stream­line the sec­tor.

In­ter­net makes it con­ve­nient for Chi­nese peo­ple to em­brace mod­ern char­ity. On­line char­ity has grown pretty fast in China and has huge po­ten­tial to ex­pand fur­ther.

There are sev­eral rea­sons why on­line char­ity has grown at such a fast pace. The tra­di­tional prac­tice was to do­nate money to char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tions, thank your­self for do­ing a good deed and for­get about it. That used to be the case partly be­cause donors had lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about where the money they do­nated went and who ben­e­fited from it.

But to­day the in­ter­net

While a few in­ter­net users hold rad­i­cal opin­ions and blame Luo for every­thing, the ma­jor­ity have kept the dis­cus­sion on a ra­tio­nal level. As a re­sult, when Luo de­cided to re­turn all the money he had re­ceived as do­na­tion, he could do so with­out much of a hitch.

The Luo in­ci­dent also made ne­ti­zens dis­cuss what mea­sures should be taken to make sure the in­for­ma­tion re­leased on on­line char­ity plat­forms is com­plete and fac­tual. The gov­ern­ment, on its part, should take mea­sures to bet­ter reg­u­late such plat­forms and pro­tect both the donors and those re­ceiv­ing the do­na­tions.

The in­ter­net will con­tinue play­ing an in­flu­en­tial role in pro­mot­ing char­ity in the fu­ture, and the in­ter­net will pro­pel China’s on­line char­ity sec­tor to­ward greater suc­cess.

Wang Zhenyao is the dean of China Phi­lan­thropy Re­search In­sti­tute at Beijing Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity. The ar­ti­cle is an ex­cerpt from his in­ter­view with China Daily’s Zhang Zhoux­i­ang.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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