China’s Statistics Bureau announced that there were 17.23 million new babies in 2017, a 3.5 percent drop from the previous year’s 17.86 million.
In 2015, China relaxed its long-standing birth policy to allow couples to have two children, in the hope it would prompt a baby boom and help reverse the trend toward an aging population. The two-child policy lead to an 8 percent growth in births the following year, with nearly half of them being the second child in a family.
However, the rise in births appears to have been a one-off, with couples’ decisions affected by the trend toward delaying marriage, the desire for smaller families, and concerns about the high cost of raising children.
Analysts say these shifts in attitudes, such as a greater emphasis on investing in children’s education, are lowering the country’s fertility rate. Also, a decline in the number of women of child-bearing age is one of the reasons behind the drop.
The introduction of the two-child policy has affected China’s urban residents more than those living in the countryside. Analysts say urban couples face more economic pressures than their rural counterparts, which majorly deter them from having a second child.
Economists warn that falling birth rates in China are leading to the rapid aging of the population and creating a shortage of workers. Some of them advocate tax decreases and financial support to encourage couples to have more children and counter this fall.