In recent years, China has been grappling with a rapidly aging population, low fertility rates, and a shrinking workforce. In response to this demographic challenge, several major cities in China have introduced measures to encourage families to have more children. These measures include subsidies and nursery care services to support families with young children.
Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, is one of the cities that have ramped up their efforts to boost fertility rates. The city government recently announced that parents who have a third child will receive a lump-sum payment of 20,000 yuan, which is equivalent to approximately $2,905 USD. Additionally, families who have a second child will receive a payment of 5,000 yuan. These incentives are aimed at easing the financial burden that comes with raising a larger family and encouraging couples to have more children.
Similarly, officials in Shenzhen, the financial and technology hub of Guangdong province, have also introduced measures to encourage families to have more children. In January 2023, the city announced that parents who have a third child will receive a subsidy of 19,000 yuan, which is approximately $2,759 USD. The subsidy is designed to help families offset the costs of raising an additional child and make it easier for them to consider having a larger family.
The measures introduced by Hangzhou and Shenzhen are part of a broader effort by the Chinese government to address the country’s low birth rate. In recent years, China has been experiencing a demographic shift, with an aging population and a shrinking workforce. These demographic changes have raised concerns about the long-term economic viability of the country, as well as its ability to provide adequate care and support for its aging citizens. To address these challenges, the Chinese government has been implementing a range of policies to encourage families to have more children, including relaxing the one-child policy and introducing incentives such as subsidies and nursery care services.
China’s efforts to address its low fertility rate have resulted in various measures, including subsidies and cash incentives aimed at encouraging families to have more children. In recent years, several cities have implemented such measures, with Jinan and Yangzhou being the latest cities to introduce these policies.
Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, recently announced that all families that have a second or third child will receive a subsidy of 600 yuan per month per child until the child turns 3. This subsidy is intended to ease the financial burden of raising more children and encourage families to consider having larger families. This measure is part of the city’s broader efforts to address the demographic challenges faced by China.
In Yangzhou, a city in Jiangsu province, the government has introduced subsidies for families with one or two children. According to a document issued by the city authorities, a couple will receive a subsidy of 7,500 yuan for their first child and 11,000 yuan for their second. These subsidies will be paid in annual installments until the child turns 5. This measure is designed to encourage families to have more children by reducing the financial strain associated with raising them.
Yang Ge, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Population and Labor Economics, has noted that fertility subsidies may be more effective for low-income groups than for middle- and high-income families. She also suggested that it may be difficult to implement specific measures aimed at encouraging births across the entire country. Therefore, local governments that have the resources and want to make extra efforts to boost population growth can take the lead in rolling out cash incentives.
Overall, the measures introduced by Jinan and Yangzhou reflect the Chinese government’s broader efforts to address the country’s low fertility rate. These measures are aimed at encouraging families to have more children by easing the financial burden of raising them. While these subsidies may have limited impact on middle- and high-income families, they may serve as a critical incentive for low-income families to consider having more children. The effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen, but they represent a bold and innovative approach to a complex and pressing issue.
Yang, a demographer, highlighted that expanding nursery care services is a popular approach used by many local authorities in China to encourage births. She pointed out that due to the relatively high female labor participation rate in China, helping women of childbearing age to better allocate their time will have an impact on their fertility plans. By providing affordable and accessible nursery care services, women can continue to work while also taking care of their children, which may encourage them to have more children in the future.
Officials in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province, have taken steps to incentivize the expansion of nursery care services. Affordable nursery care centers can receive up to 365 yuan per child per month in subsidies, and kindergartens are being encouraged to provide nursery care services for children ages 2 and 3. Moreover, employers are being supported in setting up nursery care facilities near workplaces to make it more convenient for working parents. These measures are aimed at making it easier for parents to take care of their children and balance work and family life, which may encourage them to have more children.
However, Yang cautioned that raising the fertility rate is not an easy task, based on the experiences of developed countries. She believes that it might take at least a decade for supportive measures to yield outcomes. The reasons for low fertility rates are complex and multifaceted, and supportive measures need to be sustained over a long period of time to have a significant impact. While improving access to nursery care services is an important step, it is not enough on its own to address the problem of low fertility rates.
Official statistics show that China’s total population dropped for the first time in six decades last year, and the number of newborns also fell below 10 million for the first time since 1950. The decline in the population is a significant concern for China, as it will have far-reaching implications for the country’s economic and social development. China is facing the challenge of an aging population and a shrinking workforce, which may lead to slower economic growth and higher healthcare costs. Therefore, it is crucial for China to address the problem of low fertility rates and take measures to encourage more births.
Expanding nursery care services is an important step towards encouraging more births in China. However, it is just one of many measures that need to be taken to address the complex issue of low fertility rates. It will take sustained effort and a multi-faceted approach to achieve meaningful results. The decline in China’s population is a significant challenge, and addressing this challenge will require the cooperation and effort of the entire society.
According to Yang Wenzhuang, who heads the National Health Commission’s department of population surveillance and family development in China, the country’s total fertility rate has dropped significantly from 1.77 births per woman in 2016 to 1.15 in 2021. He noted that the extremely low fertility rate is a major threat to maintaining balanced population development in China. Yang made this statement in an article published last month.
Yang pointed out that some European countries had faced similar challenges with declining fertility rates, with rates falling below 1.5 before policymakers began implementing supportive measures to increase birth rates. It took about a decade before there was a slow rebound in birth rates in these countries. In contrast, Japan and South Korea have continued to record consistently low fertility levels because of the belated rollout of interventions and lackluster efforts to address the issue.
Yang attributed the low birth rates in China to factors such as financial burdens, challenges in taking care of children, and women’s concerns over career development. In essence, he noted that the costs of having and rearing children are too high. He further emphasized that comprehensive measures must be launched to address public concerns about having children.
To tackle the problem of declining birth rates in China, Yang suggested that local governments should be encouraged to actively explore and make bold innovations in reducing the cost of childbirth, child care, and education. This would help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with having children and could encourage more people to have children.
Yang’s call for comprehensive measures to address declining birth rates in China highlights the urgency of the situation. It is important for policymakers to prioritize this issue and work towards creating an environment that supports families in raising children. Failure to do so could lead to serious consequences for the country’s population and economy in the long run.
In conclusion, measures introduced by Hangzhou and Shenzhen are part of a larger effort to address China’s demographic challenges. By offering subsidies and other incentives, these cities hope to encourage couples to have more children and contribute to the growth of the country’s population. While it remains to be seen whether these measures will be successful in achieving their intended goals, they represent a bold and innovative approach to a complex and pressing issue.