Baby boom not likely in the near fu­ture

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

The fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy has been changed and, from Jan 1, all cou­ples were al­lowed to have two chil­dren. Within months, how­ever, some ci­ties be­gan fac­ing chal­lenges. Since many hos­pi­tals have lim­ited beds in their ob­stet­rics de­part­ments, preg­nant women found it dif­fi­cult to reg­is­ter for child­birth.

The new­fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy took ef­fect just about nine months ago, so it is dif­fi­cult to get au­then­tic data on the num­ber of new­borns in the coun­try. But many peo­ple say the over­crowd­ing in ob­stet­rics de­part­ments of hos­pi­tals sug­gest the new­fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy has sparked a baby boom.

But given the fact that not many el­i­gi­ble fam­i­lies opted to have a sec­ond child ear­lier when the gov­ern­ment al­lowed cou­ples ei­ther of whom was the only child of his/her fam­ily to have two chil­dren, the new fam­ily plan­ning pol­icy will not lead to a baby boom.

Al­though all cou­ples can now have two chil­dren, many of them were born be­fore the 1980s and have thus crossed the nor­mal child­bear­ing age. As to those young cou­ples born in or af­ter the 1980s, many of them are re­luc­tant to have two chil­dren be­cause of the high cost of rais­ing a child. For in­stance, in a sur­vey con­ducted in Liaon­ing prov­ince at the begin­ning of the year, only 13.7 per­cent of the re­spon­dents said they would have two chil­dren, with about 80 per­cent say­ing they had no such in­ten­tion.

This means the fer­til­ity de­sire level is be­tween 1.0 and 1.2; the ac­tual fer­til­ity rate may be even lower. China stepped into the low birth-rate era in the 1990s, and peo­ple’s low fer­til­ity de­sire means a baby boom is not likely in the near fu­ture.

Due to the high cost of rais­ing a child, which in­cludes ex­pen­di­ture on ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing and other essen­tials, plus the con­sump­tion of time, China’s ac­tual fer­til­ity rate may not be higher than 1.5. The birth rate in big ci­ties is even lower, be­cause of the busy life­style of cou­ples and the high cost of liv­ing.

How­ever, it is a fact that ob­stet­rics de­part­ments of hos­pi­tals, es­pe­cially in big ci­ties, are over­bur­dened with pa­tients. Some me­dia re­ports have said that fam­i­lies have had to queue up to reg­is­ter for preg­nancy check, but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the num­ber of preg­nant women has sud­denly shot up.

Be­cause of the lim­ited num­ber of beds, some hos­pi­tals have im­posed a quota on daily con­sul­ta­tion num­bers to en­sure ev­ery preg­nant woman is al­lot­ted a bed for child­birth. Since this is a pub­lic med­i­cal ser­vice prob­lem, med­i­cal authorities and hos­pi­tals should op­ti­mize the med­i­cal re­sources at their dis­posal to solve it. And to im­prove ob­stet­rics care ser­vices and so­cial poli­cies for ex­pec­tant moth­ers, the authorities should first strengthen the pub­lic ser­vice sys­tem. The num­ber of hospi­tal beds, ob­ste­tri­cians and pe­di­a­tri­cians should all be in­creased to meet the de­mand of ex­pec­tant moth­ers and new­borns. In ad­di­tion, the authorities should sim­plify the reg­is­tra­tion pro­ce­dure for hav­ing a sec­ond child and en­cour­age cou­ples to have two chil­dren. Un­for­tu­nately, China’s pop­u­la­tion pol­icy still fo­cuses on pop­u­la­tion con­trol. For in­stance, al­though the Bei­jing mu­nic­i­pal authorities have re­duced the fines col­lected from cou­ples that have more than two chil­dren, they still im­pose a fine three to 10 times the amount of the stan­dard so­cial main­te­nance fee for the third and sub­se­quent child, which may be as high as 520,000 yuan ($78,040), ac­cord­ing to the draft for the re­vised so­cial main­te­nance fee. The reg­u­la­tion shows pop­u­la­tion authorities still be­lieve in con­trol­ling the pop­u­la­tion, which will make it dif­fi­cult to solve China’s de­mo­graphic prob­lems in the long term.

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