05/04/2016, 10.22
CHINA
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Chinese government must "work to increase birth rate. Or face system collapse"

Yi Fuxian, one of the best known opponents of the one-child law, said the easing of family control policies are not enough: "Beijing will soon find that it is much more difficult to increase the birth rate than empty cradles". But doctors in Shanghai and the capital foresee a "baby boom" for 2016

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China "must encourage couples to have more children to address the country’s looming demographic crisis as its population ages and the number of people of working age falls “,  says Yi Fuxian, medical researcher and one of the most outspoken opponents of the one-child law, in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Exiled in 2000 by China as an "enemy of a fundamental policy," Yi works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. In 2010, when the Communist executive began to rethink their population policies, the ban against him was withdrawn, and the author of "Big Country With an Empty Nest", began to  travel several times a year to Chinese universities to talk about demographics.

With the 2015 "turning point" in the decision to ease the one-child policy allowing everyone to have a second child, Yi’s theories begin to be quoted by state media: the culmination of his rehabilitation arrived with an invitation the prestigious Boao Forum of 2016. However, these accolades have not stopped him from criticizing the government: "the decision has already proved a failure. Fertility rates have seen no major changes ".

Instead of the expected "baby boom," adds the researcher, last year the new births in China fell by 320 thousand units, and the fertility rate was 1.4 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world: " It’s already too late … China’s population is ageing quickly and will start to shrink soon and there’s no way for China to maintain strong economic growth under such demographic conditions”.

“China had previously regarded birth control as the most difficult task in the world, but it will soon find out that boosting fertility rates is even harder,” Yi said, citing the experiences of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong".

Zuo Xuejin, a renowned demographics researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said China should remove punitive measures, such as imposing “social support fees” on couples who have more children than the family planning policies allow.  The government should, instead, encourage young couples to have more children”, Zuo said. “The government could, for instance, provide subsidies to employers who grant maternity leave to employees".

The researchers' predictions clash with those of the Beijing Medical Association – a state run non-profit organization - according to which in 2016 the capital will celebrate "more than 400 thousand new citizens, double the number recorded in the past five years." The same is predicted to happen in Shanghai.

Official figures presented by the Association show that the last five years about 200 thousand children were born a year in Beijing. In 2012, the year of the Dragon considered lucky for births, 220 thousand infants were born; in 2015, the worst year for fertility according to the traditional calendar, that number dropped to 172 thousand.

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