06/16/2023, 19.42
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To counter demographic decline, Beijing adds assisted fertilisation to its healthcare plan

Beijing municipal authorities add 16 assisted reproduction technologies like IVF and freezing semen to their health plan. The status of unmarried women is an issue. Experts warn that existing programmes might not cope with increased demand. Last year, the number of newborns fell to a record low of 6.77 per 1,000 people. A further decline is expected in 2023.


Beijing (AsiaNews) – China is rebooting its efforts to raise the country’s birth rate and reverse its demographic decline. Should the latter continue, it will have inevitably repercussions on the economy, which is already showing signs of weakness.

One of the latest (and some might say, desperate) move to boost the flagging birth rate comes from Beijing where municipal authorities have decided to include 16 types of assisted reproduction technology to the city's healthcare system.

Talking about medically assisted reproduction represents a U-turn that touches ethnically sensitive topics.

Under the new rules, basic insurance would cover in vitro fertilisation, embryo transplantation, freezing and storing semen, said Du Xin, deputy director of Beijing's Municipal Medical Insurance Bureau.

This fits in with the national government’s attempt to reverse the effects of its one-child policy, and comes on the heels of the first demographic decline in 60 years. In fact, last year the number of newborns fell to a record low of 6.77 per 1,000 people and is expected to drop further this year.

In August 2022, China's National Health Commission issued guidance to provinces on how to support fertility rates. On 1 May 2023, the north-eastern province of Liaoning announced that it would provide reproductive technologies starting 1 July.

Beijing's announcement comes before a court rules in the case of Teresa Xu, a 35-year-old unmarried woman who is suing a public hospital in the capital for violating her rights by refusing to freeze her eggs because she is unmarried.

Under existing rules, fertility treatments like IVF and egg freezing are available only to married women. However, in view of the rapidly aging population, government advisors suggested in March to give single and unmarried women access to egg freezing and in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

This is already happening in some provinces, like Sichuan in the south-western China, where some private clinics now offer IVF to counteract falling births.

Doctors and other experts warn, however, that if fertility treatments are liberalised nationwide, it could spark a boom in what is already the world's biggest market, straining its limited services.

China imposed a one-child policy in 1980, often enforced in a brutal way, which it changed in 2016, when it became a two-child policy but to little success. In view of this, many demographers and economists have long been pushing the government to lift restrictions on the number of children.

In 2020, some members of the Academy of Social Sciences issued an appeal to the authorities to promote artificial insemination and help parents to boost the birth rate, especially in areas with an aging population.

Meanwhile, many couples do not want children or only want one because of potential costs.

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