Central authorities on Tuesday presented a series of policies, the most comprehensive at the national level, to encourage couples to have more children. Measures include providing better maternal care and childcare services, improving maternity and parental leave policies, as well as preferential housing and taxation policies, in line with policy guidelines issued by the National Health Commission in collaboration with 16 other ministries.
Some local governments have already introduced measures such as tax deductions, longer maternity leave and improved medical insurance for the same purpose. But the latest guidelines issued by the central government are more comprehensive in terms of the areas covered and how effectively they can be implemented to achieve the desired results. For example, the concept of promoting “fertility-friendly workplaces” was first put forward. All of this reflects the central government’s strong will to promote the “long-term balanced development of the people”.
Which is not surprising given the serious demographic challenges facing the country. China’s fertility rate of 1.16 in 2021, a record high, was well below the notional 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population. Demographers expect new births in China to fall to a record high this year, falling below 10 million from last year’s 10.6 million babies – a figure that was already 11 lower .5% to that of 2020.
The rapid aging of the population complicates the challenge of population decline, which is expected to begin as early as 2025. People aged 60 or over already make up 18.7% of China’s total population. This poses a great challenge to the future economic development of the country, as it will reduce labor supply, increase the burden of care for families and put increasing pressure on public services in the years to come.
To reverse the trend, China has already relaxed its family planning policy in recent years, allowing all couples to have two children in 2016 and relaxing it further in 2021 to allow all couples to have three children. if they wish.
Experiences from industrialized countries indicate that people tend to have fewer children as they get richer. Uncertainties stemming from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been raging for nearly three years, have also made many couples hesitant to have more children.
To encourage couples to have more children, policymakers must ensure that more people can benefit from people-centred policies as they attempt to improve population structure and boost the economy. .