Will China's birth rate improve?

Marcus Roberts
July 6, 2017
Reproduced with Permission
Demography is Destiny

A couple of years ago the Chinese government loosened up its draconian population control strategy. From now on, instead of being restricted to one-child only (unless they had lots of money, or fell into one of the various exceptions) the Chinese people are allowed two children. Of course, if one was to have more than this, three children for example, one still runs the risk of exorbitant fines, or forced abortions. The Chinese government has not given up its claim to the right to regulate its citizens' family size. Nor has is it given up its claim to the right to kill the most innocent in order to enforce that regulation.

Of course, the reason that the Chinese government loosened up its population control policies was the fear that decades of fear, propaganda and economic growth had worked too well: the population was in fact too controlled. There were not enough babies being born now. China faced the uncomfortable future of a rapidly ageing population and not enough workers to pay to keep that ageing population. Nor to keep the economy expanding; this is a problem if, as some analysts believe, economic growth is the only thing reason that keeps the Chinese people tolerating the Communist regime. So China needs more babies and the one-child policy has to go. Its replacement, the two-child policy will hopefully result in twice as many babies. Right?

Well, according to sociologists and economist and analysts, the Chinese government's hope that the move away from the one-child policy might result in many more babies is probably misguided. We've spoken about this before on this blog. There are many reasons now why Chinese couple might not be so keen to have another baby, not least of which is the fact that having one child is all they know. Chinese people growing up nowadays may not know any brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts or cousins. Having a second child is far beyond their ken that they simply don't consider it. On top of that they have had 30 years of propaganda extolling the virtues of one child families, this cannot be overcome just by changing one government policy. Finally, there is the economic cost. When success is being measured economically, why would you jeopardise that by having another child? That means time off work, and then the cost of daycare, education etc etc.

As Fortune magazine shows , unfortunately for the Chinese government, working women in China don't appear to want to have more children, whether or not the government says that they can. A survey by one of China's main recruitment websites, Zhaopin.com, shows that 40% of those without children do not want children. While most of those who already have a child do not want another one. The high costs of living (and bringing up children) as well as long work days contributed to these finding, particularly in Beijing and Shanghai. Bloomberg reports that the government is considering some sort of birth subsidies to encourage women to have more children. But this subsidies are going to have to be pretty large to overcome the reasons why Chinese women won't have children. This leads one to wonder, if the Chinese birth rate doesn't increase in the next few years, and subsidies don't work, what will the Chinese government do then?