China Is Encouraging Families To Have Third Child In The Face Of Shrinking Population

BEIJING, China — China has decided to make it permissible for couples to have a third child in order to avoid a demographic catastrophe that may jeopardize the country’s ambitions for increasing wealth and global influence.

The ceremonial legislature revised the Population and Family Planning Law on Friday, continuing the governing Communist Party’s decades-long attempt to regulate the number of families in accordance with political dictates. It’s only six years since the previous update.

China has rigorously limited most couples to one child since the 1980s, a regulation enforced with threats of penalties or job loss, resulting in abuses such as forced abortions. Parents killed infant girls because they preferred males, resulting in a severe sex imbalance.

Officials loosened the regulations for the first time in 2015, allowing two children, as they recognized the potential repercussions of the declining birthrate. The prevailing worry is that China will become affluent before it matures.

China has long hailed its one-child policy as a success, claiming that it has prevented 400 million more births in the world’s most populated country, therefore conserving resources and boosting economic growth.

However, China’s birth rate was already declining before the one-child policy, mirroring trends in South Korea, Thailand, and other Asian nations. According to the World Bank, the average number of children per mother fell from above six in the 1960s to below three by 1980.

Meanwhile, the number of individuals of working age in China has decreased over the last decade, while the population has hardly increased, adding to the stresses of an aging society. According to a once-decade government census, the population increased by 72 million to 1.411 billion people last year, up from 1.411 billion in 2010.

According to statistics, 12 million infants were born last year, down 18% from 14.6 million in 2019.

In 2020, the 264 million Chinese aged 60 and above amounted to 18.7% of the country’s total population, up 5.44 percentage points from 2010. At the same time, the working-age population has decreased from 70.1 percent a decade ago to 63.3 percent now.

The change to the two-child rule resulted in a short increase in births, but the impact quickly faded, and overall births continued to decline as many women chose not to have kids.

Japan, Germany, and a few other rich countries confront the similar problem of aging populations requiring fewer employees. While China is a middle-income nation with labor-intensive farming and industry, it may depend on investments in factories, technology, and foreign assets.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress suspended the imposition of fines for violating previous limits and advocated for more parental leave and childcare services during its meeting on Friday. The amendment said that new measures in finance, taxation, education, housing, and employment should be implemented to “reduce the burden on families.”

It also aims to eliminate long-standing employment discrimination against pregnant women and new moms, which is seen as one of the main deterrents to having more children, alongside expensive prices and tight living quarters.

While female participation in the labor market is strong, women, particularly those with children, are underrepresented at higher levels, with just 8.4% of central and provincial leadership posts held by women. Only 11% of the young party leaders who will assume the reins in the next decades are female.

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