Most of China’s one-child couples spur chance to have another baby
Survey suggests relaxation of birth control policies is doing little to ease the problem of the nation’s rapidly ageing population
More than half of couples in China with one child have decided not to have a second even though they are allowed and even encouraged to do so by the authorities, according to a survey by the governmental organisation the All-China Women’s Federation.
The findings of the official survey offer fresh evidence that the demographic time bomb continues to tick as the country’s 1.3 billion population ages quickly before a properly functioning pension and health care network is in place to care for the growing number of elderly.
A total of 10,000 respondents took part in the survey.
The results also suggest that the leadership’s decision to relax family planning was too little, too late after more than three decades of rigid and brutal implementation of the one-child policy.
The government decided in 2013 to allow most couples to have a second child, and two years later further relaxed the rules to allow all couples to have a second baby.
A total of 150 million mainland couples now have one child.
But as is the case in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, the richer people become, the less willing they are to have more babies.
Hefty property prices in cities, high education costs and even constant smog have discouraged couples from having more than one child.
Many couples felt they “don’t have the courage or willingness” to have a second child due to the high costs of giving birth and raising their firstborn, Chen Xiaoxia, a director at the All China Women’s Federation, was quoted by the China Youth Daily as saying on Thursday.
Sophia Chen, a 38-year-old Shanghai resident, said she and her husband had a five-year-old daughter but decided not to have a second child because they had no relatives to help take care of a baby.
“My mother has problems with her legs and my husband’s parents are old, in their 70s,” she said, adding that her father-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer.
As she was a manager in an insurance firm and her husband was a doctor, both were too busy with their jobs to care for another child themselves, she said.
Chen said having only one child meant the couple could focus on her education and provide the best resources for her.
The federation’s survey of 10,000 couples, conducted in 10 provinces over the past six months, found that 53.3 per cent of couples with one child did not want another.
The ratio rose above 60 per cent in wealthy areas such as Beijing and eastern coastal cities.
The findings dovetailed with new birth data.
After the first major relaxation of the rules in 2014, the family planning commission in Beijing predicted two million more babies would be born, but only 470,000 additional births were recorded.
The mainland had 16.55 million births in 2015, a fall of 320,000 from the year before, despite the policy relaxation.
The survey results come as the labour force, defined as people aged between 16 and 60, has been shrinking for four consecutive years and is expected to contract at a fast rate in the coming years.