China mulls financial aid for couples to have second child | world-news | Hindustan Times
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China mulls financial aid for couples to have second child

China could hand out financial incentives to couples reluctant to have a second child because of economic constraints as it moves to counter a fall in the number of people in the working age.

world Updated: Feb 28, 2017 19:06 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
A man waves the Chinese national flag as an amateur choir performs in a park in a residential neighbourhood in Beijing on February 28, 2017.
A man waves the Chinese national flag as an amateur choir performs in a park in a residential neighbourhood in Beijing on February 28, 2017. (Reuters)

China is considering handing out financial incentives to couples planning a second child as tight budgets have stopped willing parents from making the choice though the law now allows them to have two children.

Many couples were deciding against a second child because of economic constraints, Wang Peian, vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC), told a seminar over the weekend. 

Quoting a NHFPC survey, Wang said the commission found in 2015 found that “60% of families polled expressed reluctance to have a second baby largely due to economic constraints”. 

China relaxed its controversial and strictly implemented “one child” policy two years ago to allow couples to have a second child. 

“Nationwide, the change led to 17.8 million births in 2016, an increase of more than 1.3 million compared with the previous year and the biggest annual increase in 20 years,” state-run China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday. 

The statistic in China Daily was different from what official Xinhua news agency reported last month: A total of 18.46 million new babies were born in China in 2016, of whom nearly 9 million were second children. 

The numbers either way aren’t enough for the government, with a sharp reduction of people in the working age looming over China in the coming decades. 

Wang said the government is considering introducing supporting measures, including “birth rewards and subsidies” to encourage people to have another child. 

“It is the first time that the top population authority has suggested such a move to boost the birthrate,” Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the newspaper. 

The report gave the example of a low fertility country like Japan, where incentives such as cash subsidies, prolonged maternity leave, tax breaks and child and healthcare benefits have been introduced by the government to boost the population. 

Yuan, however, said it wasn’t the right time to introduce financial incentives for the second child in China. “It's not the right time to introduce any financial incentive plans,” he said, explaining that China “still faces challenges from a huge population base and limited natural and public resources to sustain population development”. 

“The second child policy is a choice by the top decision-makers facing a dilemma of the existing challenges and structural population problems like rapid aging and a shrinking workforce,” he added.