A delegate at China’s top political advisory body has suggested allowing single women over 30 to give birth to one child, as the country’s birth rate declines. Hua Yawei, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s leadership to be more tolerant towards unmarried mothers and to give equal treatment to the children born to single women, the People’s Daily reports. At present, single women on the mainland are “theoretically” not eligible to have babies as they can not obtain a “birth permission certificate” issued by the government based on a marriage certificate. Even so, single women can give birth at health institutions across the country, but they are not entitled to the same benefits their married counterparts, such as paid maternity leave and medical reimbursements during pregnancy. To register a permanent residency for their children in order to receive benefits, hukou as it is called on the mainland, unmarried mothers need to pay a ‘social child-raising raising fee”, which varies depending on the economic development of the region in which they apply. Hospitals are banned from providing assistant reproductive services for people who can not show a marriage certificate. 21st century China or 1950s America? With Beijing’s censors, it’s hard to tell Hua said China’s birth rate of 2020 dropped by 14.9 per cent compared with the year before, while the country’s population only increased by 480,000 people last year, with many demographers predicting the nation will enter negative population growth soon. The declining birth rate is attributed not only to a reluctance among many people to have children due to the cost, but also to the reality that single women are not eligible to give birth and the high infertility rate in China, said the delegate. In mainland metropolises, there are scores of “leftover” men and women, who have difficulties in finding partners after reaching certain ages – 25 for women and 30 for men. The mainland’s infertility rate has soared from 3.5 per cent in 1997 to 16.4 per cent in 2019, and is estimated to climb to 18.2 per cent by 2023, according to Hua. Besides amending laws to allow single women over 30 to have their first baby and to enjoy the same access to benefits as married mothers, Hua also suggested authorities give the green light to health institutions to help women freeze their eggs and to carry out assisted pregnancies and births. He proposed that fertility services be included under the public medical insurance scheme. Last month, Beijing the first city on the mainland to expand its insurance network to cover assistant reproductive technologies for women. Rachel Xu, a 41-year-old single woman in Shanghai, said she welcomed Hua’s suggestions. She said she will assess her ability to raise a child on her own if the suggestions were made into law. “I love kids, but I’ve never thought of having my own baby before because I am single and the law forbids that,” she told the South China Morning Post . “I hope our society can be more open and tolerant for single women with children,” she said.