No child care­means no sec­ond child for many

Some women say it’s too hard to find help; pri­vate in­vestors re­luc­tant to en­ter the mar­ket

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By CHENMENGWEI chenmengwei@chi­

Nearly a year af­ter China stepped into the new sec­ond­child pol­icy era, child care has be­come a prom­i­nent is­sue in fam­ily plan­ning, with more than 60 per­cent of the moth­ers who don’t want a sec­ond child say­ing it’s just too hard to find help.

Wang Pei’an, deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, said at a Bei­jing fo­rum on pop­u­la­tion on Satur­day that the coun­try will wel­come more than 17.5 mil­lion new­borns in 2016 — a 5.7 per­cent in­crease over last year’s 16.55 mil­lion. But the fig­ure is con­sis­tent with of­fi­cial pro­jec­tions made when the new pol­icy took ef­fect on Jan 1. The pro­jected num­ber of new­borns this year will be about the same as it was in 2000, Wang said.

The an­nounce­ment marked the first time the govern­ment has given an of­fi­cial ap­praisal on the ef­fec­tive­ness of the sec­ond-child pol­icy.

Wang also es­ti­mated that dur­ing the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), China’s to­tal fer­til­ity rate will rise to 1.8, which means, on av­er­age, that a wo­man is ex­pected to give birth to 1.8 chil­dren over her life­time.

That’s less than needed to sus­tain the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion level. To do that, women would have to give birth to no less than two chil­dren over a life­time, on av­er­age — though the ex­act fig­ure may be higher in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries due in part to higher mor­tal­ity rates.

Luo Fuhe, vice-chair­man of Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence, said China should shift its fo­cus from pure pop­u­la­tion growth to pro­duc­tiv­ity growth over the next five to 10 years, be­fore the ag­ing so­ci­ety hits the brake on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

But re­search by the China Pop­u­la­tion and De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter found that hav­ing no one to look af­ter chil­dren has be­come a ma­jor hin­drance for many women as they con­tem­plate hav­ing a sec­ond child.

Most women in China en­joy less than a half-year of ma­ter­nity leave, and nurs­eries gen­er­ally ac­cept chil­dren older than 3 years. That leaves many par­ents with lit­tle choice — ei­ther giv­ing up one of their jobs (usu­ally the mother’s) or leav­ing the chil­dren with grand­par­ents.

The re­search found that 80 per­cent of the fam­i­lies in­ter­viewed set­tled on the lat­ter op­tion, though they pre­ferred a pro­fes­sional in­sti­tu­tion to do the job.

Mean­while, one-third of moth­ers had to quit their jobs to look af­ter their ba­bies, as they had no one to help. Most of the moth­ers said they would im­me­di­ately re­turn to work if they could find child care help.

Wang Haidong, di­rec­tor of the plan­ning com­mis­sion’s fam­ily divi­sion, said the prob­lem is mainly the re­sult of a lack of pro­fes­sional nurs­eries and kinder­gartens, as many pub­licly funded ones were closed due to de­clin­ing num­bers of new­borns in re­cent years. Pri­vate in­vestors showed lit­tle in­ter­est in get­ting into the busi­ness in part be­cause of lim­ited mar­ket ac­cess, Wang said.

Wang sug­gested that more poli­cies should be made to sup­port pri­vate en­ti­ties en­ter­ing the busi­ness of child care, so that more fam­i­lies will be will­ing and able to have a sec­ond child.

17.5 mil­lion Ex­pected num­ber of new­borns in China this year

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