Relaxing rules to allow foreign nannies could boost China’s ailing birth rate by as many as 200,000 a year, and save families as much 200 billion yuan (US$31.6 billion), according to a report published on Wednesday. With the minimum salary for a domestic helper in Hong Kong set at HK$4,630 (US$593.40) per month, hiring a foreign nanny could cut expenses for a Chinese family by 60 per cent. The average salary for a nanny in big Chinese cities 10,000 yuan (US$1,578.48) per month. The money saved could then help raise China’s birth rate by two percentage points and could motivate Chinese parents to give birth to 200,000 more children every year, the report by YuWa Population Research said. The report cited data from the Hong Kong government that in 2019 the city, with a population of 7.5 million, had nearly 400,000 foreign domestic helpers, with the vast majority from the Philippines and Indonesia. According to the Hong Kong government, that figure fell to 373,884 last year. “If three million foreign nannies are hired in the mainland, these families could save a total of more than 200 billion yuan each year,” the report said. China is in the midst of a population crisis due to a low birth rate and a rapidly ageing society and it has encouraged parents to have up to three children. But the high associated costs, which include education and housing, represent some of the heaviest financial burdens in the world and are harming efforts, according to the report. It costs an average of 485,000 yuan (US$76,556) for a family to raise a child until they are 18 in China, which is seven times its per capita gross domestic product (GDP), the report said. Is a demographic turning point just around the corner for China? In the United States, the figure stands at 4.11 times GDP per capita, 2.08 times in Australia and 4.26 times in Japan, the report added. The costs are even higher in big cities in China, with a household in Shanghai spending more than 1 million yuan on average to raise a child, while it costs 970,000 yuan in Beijing and 720,000 yuan in Zhejiang province. Chinese mothers gave birth to 10.62 million babies last year, an 11.5 per cent drop from 12 million in 2020, with the national birth rate falling to a record low of 7.52 births for every 1,000 people in 2021, from 8.52 in 2020. The report also suggested changes to the protection of reproductive rights for unmarried women in China. Unlike the US and Europe, China does not publish a birth rate for children born to unmarried women. We suggest repealing any policies that discriminate against illegitimate births and fully protect the rights of children born out of wedlock YuWa Population Research “We suggest repealing any policies that discriminate against illegitimate births and fully protect the rights of children born out of wedlock, including legislation to support children born through artificial insemination, [in vitro fertilisation] and other technically assisted births, as well as unconditional hukou registration for children born outside of marriage,” the report said. A hukou is a household registration document issued to every Chinese citizen. It controls access to public services based on the birthplace of the holder. The report said if the reproductive rights of unmarried women were protected, China could see an increase of 200,000 births per year, which would represent a 2 per cent increase in the birth rate. The report also called on the easing of the access to assisted reproductive technologies, which remain largely limited in China. China’s population crisis could give women greater reproductive rights Only married women with specific medical conditions, such as infertility or a tumour, are permitted to freeze their eggs, while any form of surrogacy is illegal. “We suggest that the cost of infertility treatment be covered by medical insurance,” the report stated. “In addition, the law must allow single women (or unmarried women) equal rights to use assisted reproductive technology.” Starting at the end of next month, Beijing will include a total of 16 fertility services in a government-backed medical insurance scheme, state media reported on Monday. The report also included additional measures, including housing subsidies, increasing the number of nurseries and education reforms, to help boost the slowing birth rate.