For decades, China, the world’s most populous nation, maintained one of the world’s strictest family planning regulations. In the main, it has insisted over the years that couples must go along with its one child policy. In 2016 however, the Asian nation relaxed the policy due to widespread concerns over an aging workforce that was having a telling and stagnating effects on its economy.
But despite official efforts to encourage couples to have more children, the country’s annual birth rate still headed southwards, reaching an all time 12 million low in 2020, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The reason, according to the agency, is not unconnected to rising cost of living and an increasing desire by women to make their own family planning choices.
But now, the Chinese government appears compelled to up its demand on couples to have more children, having decided to allow couples to have three children. The new official policy became imperative following the discovery that the country’s population is aging fast. The new policy is seen as another step taken by the world’s second largest economy to unwind several decades of its strict birth control policy which has stagnated its birthrate.
According to China’s 2020 census, the country’s population stood at 1.41 billion people, its lowest since the 1960s. That is in addition to its poor fertility rate which which stands at 1.3, a far cry from what is required to maintain a stable population.
For do long, the Asian nation’s gender policy, mainly skewed against women, has a traditional preference for male children. This led to a generation of selective sex abortions and abandonment of baby girls. Despite the gradual relaxation of the policy in the last few years, there has not been any proportionate response in terms of baby boom as expected by policymakers.
“Most families have a preference for few children now-akin to the rest of Northeast Asia. By the time of the next census will there be many third children? Probably few,” noted Lauren Johnston, a China economics and demography researcher at SOAS University of London.
China’s aging population has significant economic and political implications. With a third of its population inching towards the elderly region by 2050, it will have to contend with an obvious huge pressure to provide pension and health care at the expense of a vibrant workforce. Little wonder it is in a hurry to introduce policies to shore up childbirth amidst huge population pressure.
“It’s reasonable for the government to introduce policies to spur childbirths in the face of huge population pressure,” Vivien, a married 31-year-old lady opined.
With Agency reports
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