08/20/2021, 12.56
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Demographic crisis: Beijing to lift limits (and sanctions) on the number of children

Struggling with the catastrophic effects of its one-child policy, the Chinese Communist Party plans changes to its three-child policy. Couples will be able to have four or more children without punishments. However, most people, especially in urban areas, see large families as unsustainable because of the cost of living.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Although recently introduced, China is already considering amending its “three-child policy” to allow couples to have four or more children without being penalised by the authorities.

After scrapping its one-child policy, which limited the birthrate because of fear of overpopulation, the Chinese government is now looking at new ways to increase the size families and encourage couples to have more children.

According to China’s official Xinhua agency, an amendment to the Population and Family Planning Law was submitted the National People's Congress on Tuesday to scrap any punishment for having four or more children.

If approved, the amendment would lift all limits on the number of children, notwithstanding the official policy promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of three children per family.

The one-child policy of 1979 resulted in decades of human rights violations with forced late-pregnancy abortions, forced sterilisations and fertility controls by government authorities. 

In late May, the Politburo announced that married couples could have up to three children. This decision follows a warning issued in April by China’s central bank, urging the government to abandon birth control policies to prevent the country from being weakened economically.

In 2020 China’s population topped 1.4 billion, but births dropped by 18 per cent compared to 2019, from 14.65 to 12 million. Young Chinese do not want to have children due to the high cost of living and poor state incentives. 

Beijing’s decision follows measures by provincial and municipal authorities, promoting large families by extending benefits, such as an extra month's vacation, financial incentives of up to US$ 80, and parental leave. 

China’s capital, Beijing, has already announced its own policy, with 30 extra days of parental leave for a total of 98 days. In Sichuan, some local administrations have announced subsidies to large families for children up to age three.

However, in spite of the sweeping changes to family planning, most Chinese do not appear to be very impressed. In a poll posted on the official Xinhua news agency account on the Weibo social media platform, 29,000 out of 31,000 respondents said they wouldn't consider having more children.

For Beijing resident Ye Jinghuan, it is “absurd” to think that families would have four or more children, especially in large urban areas. “Most of the people in my social circle have one or two, but mostly one.”

“If you have a fairly high annual income, you can afford a nanny,” Ye explained. “It's pretty expensive raising a kid in a city, where a single can of milk powder costs 300 yuan” (US$ 46).

Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Zhang Jianping, an analyst and commentator originally from the eastern province of Jiangsu, believes that the state has no business in the matter.

“Family planning rules infringe on human rights and should be abolished,” Zhang said. “Family planning policies are a form of administrative intervention, which is unconstitutional.”

Yang Haiying, a lecturer at Japan's Shizuoka University, notes that the CCP still regards the Chinese population as a strategic asset. “They have realised that their population is their greatest weapon, and they want more people around to obey them,” Yang said.

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