China lifts cap on three-child policy due to dramatic decline in births

0
179

Married Chinese couples may have up to three children, China announced on Monday, in a major shift from the existing limit of two after recent data showed a dramatic decline in births in the world’s most populous country.

Beijing scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly aging population. But that failed to result in a sustained surge in births given the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities, a challenge that persiststo this day.

The policy change will come with “supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving our country’s population structure, fulfilling the country’s strategy of actively coping with an ageing population”, the official Xinhua news agency said following a politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.

Among those measures, China will lower educational costs for families, step up tax and housing support, guarantee the legal interests of working women and clamp down on “sky-high” dowries, it said, without giving specifics. It would also look to educate young people “on marriage and love”.

China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with ageing societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level.

“People are held back not by the two-children limit, but by the incredibly high costs of raising children in today’s China. Housing, extracurricular activities, food, trips, and everything else add up quickly,” Yifei Li, a sociologist at NYU Shanghai, told Reuters.

“Raising the limit itself is unlikely to tilt anyone’s calculus in a meaningful way, in my view.”

In a poll on Xinhua’s Weibo account asking #AreYouReady for the three-child policy, about 29,000 of 31,000 respondents said they would “never think of it” while the remainder chose among the options: “I’m ready and very eager to do so”, “it’s on my agenda”, or “I’m hesitating and there’s lot to consider”.

The poll was later removed.

“I am willing to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan ($785,650),” one user posted.

Share prices in birth- and fertility-related companies surged.

REUTERS