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.
Declining Birth Rate of China
China had a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020, recent data showed, on par with aging societies like Japan and Italy and far short of the roughly 2.1 needed for replacement level.
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 aging population", the official Xinhua news agency said following a Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
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 persists to this day.
"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."
The Real Issue
Zhang Xinyu, a 30-year-old mother of one from Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, said the problem was that women bore most of the responsibility for raising children.
"If men could do more to raise the child, or if families could give more consideration for women who had just had children, actually a lot of women would be able to have a second child," she told Reuters.
"...But thinking of the big picture, realistically, I don't want to have a second child. And a third is even more impossible."
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”.
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