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Why Are Chinese People Reluctant to Have Children?

According to the latest data from China’s Ministry of Public Security, there were 10.35 million newborns in 2020 with household registration, a sharp drop of 15 percent from the 11.79 million in 2019. The number compares with the 11.87 million newborns in 1961, one of the years of the great famine in China’s history.

However, the number of newborns with household registration is not exactly the same as the number of births in that year. The main reason is that the household registration was not declared for some newborns. Taking 2019 as an example, the Ministry of Public Security shows 11.79 million, but the National Statistics Bureau shows 14.65 million.

Sanlian Life Week, an influential Beijing-based weekly magazine, recently published an article quoting the recent population data that some Chinese cities released. The birth rate in many places fell sharply last year, showing a decline exceeding 10 percent. It was even more than 30 percent in some areas.

The report said that China’s fertility rate, which measures the average number of children per woman, was once higher than 6, but it is now below 1.5. Why don’t Chinese people want to have children? The most important reason is that they cannot afford to have children. Buying or renting houses has emptied many young people’s pockets of their income. Even for a middle-class family, raising children is a very large expense.

The report continued that compared with those born in the 1970s and 1980s, the relative income of those born in 1990’s and 2000’s dropped significantly. The term “relative income” is the ratio of expected future income level to living expenses. The higher the ratio, the stronger the financial ability to raise children.

In addition, the support that society provides for raising children is also insufficient. The report pointed out that in China, “the number of childcare institutions for the age of 0-3 is almost zero.” Without the help of the grandparents, it is almost impossible for double-income families to raise their children independently.

To alleviate the pressure on pensions, the authorities began to study the policy of delaying retirement. However, the report noted that this may in turn further reduce the fertility rate, because most families need the elderly to help take care of their children. If the elderly delay retirement, the families will lose their support. As a result, many young families choose to give up having children.

Source: Central News Agency, February 14, 2021