Raising children is too expensive and the state doesn't help. Marriages are down by 12 per cent, while new births dropped by 18 per cent. As a result of the one-child policy there are too many men: about 118 for every 100 women. Cancelling population control policies won't be enough to reverse the trend; experts call for subsidies for couples.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – Young Chinese do not want to have children because it costs too much to raise them and they get no help from the state.
Chinese authorities face a dilemma: The younger generation prefer to give up parenthood in order to maintain their standard of living while demographic collapse is looming over the country.
According to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, 8.1 million couples married last year, down 12 per cent from 2019, the 7th consecutive year of decline and a 40 per cent drop between 2013 and 2020.
Yesterday, China’s National Bureau of Statistics released the results of the national census. In 2020 the population exceeded 1.4 billion, but compared to 2019 new births fell by 18 per cent, from 14.65 million to 12 million.
China’s fertility rate also fell to 1.3 children per woman, well below the 2.1 replacement level needed for a stable population. This is even lower than Japan (1.37 children per woman), which has one of the oldest populations in the world.
Some researchers estimate that over the next 10 years the share of Chinese women between 22 and 35 years will drop by more than 30 per cent.
Another problem is that as a result of the one-child policy the male population is far larger than the female population. In the 15-19 age group, the ratio is 118.39 men per 100 women.
According to several observers, the rate at which China ages is faster than that with which it accumulates wealth.
The ageing of the population and the decline in the number of people of working age require changes and flexibility in the country’s economic structures.
The clear shrinking of the labour force poses a threat to Chinese leaders since the regime bases its legitimacy on economic growth and the promise of prosperity for the Chinese.
In April, the People’s Bank of China (PBC), the country’s central bank, recommended that the government abandon its population control policies because, without such a step, the country could lose its economic edge.
The central bank has essentially confirmed the failure of the past one-child policy. Easing it in 2106 by allowing couples to have two children did not change the situation.
According to the PBC, allowing couples to have as many children as they want must be done now since there are couples who still want to have more children. Otherwise, certain socio-economic trends might change this in the future, like in the more developed countries.
However, several experts believe that scrapping existing population policies will not be enough to prevent demographic collapse. The Chinese must also be encouraged to start a family.
Women especially should receive subsidies to compensate for the costs and professional sacrifices they face if they choose to have children.
Financial support should be concentrated in large cities, where housing and child rearing costs are higher.
For the Chinese Communist Party, this is a difficult challenge. Western societies with more generous family support programmes have failed to stop declining birth rates, including Japan, where demographic decline has coincided with economic decline.