In January we expressed some doubt about China’s new “baby boom”, which was supposed to have followed the relaxation of China’s “One Child Policy” in January 2016. New reports suggest that the government is considering using financial incentives to encourage parents to have a second child.
China Daily reported that Wang Pei’an, Vice-Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, proposed the move at a conference on 25 February. After decades of seeking to prevent population growth, for a senior government official to even bring up the idea represents a significant shift in government thinking.
Now China faces the challenge of an ageing populace. Already one-seventh of the population is over the age of 60, and it’s projected that by 2050 that number will grow to one-third of the population. In addition to increasing pressure on pensions and the healthcare system, a dwindling labor force threatens to become another drag on the country’s already slowing economic growth.
However, a study in December 2016 found that more than half of all Chinese parents don’t want a second child. Costs of housing and childcare were cited as reasons for this drop in interest, with these concerns understandably more significant in big cities like Beijing. The one child policy has had another side effect as well. The country’s gender imbalance has made it harder for couples to get together and stay together, although there is some evidence that older women are taking the opportunity to have the second child they always wanted.
Globally, human population growth is on the rise and officially passed the seven billion mark in 2011, creating added pressure on the environment as well. Since 2011, the population has increased by another five hundred million. In fact, fertility rates worldwide are falling, but this decline is being counterbalanced by the increase in life expectancy. This increase is most pronounced in the developing world, while in the US and western Europe, most concerns are around the costs of care for the elderly, and the controversial need for immigration to supplement the labor force. In some senses it’s a testament to China’s rapid progress that its problems are beginning to resemble those of the developed world.
Photo: Harald Groven via Flickr