Birth rate falls in China despite two-child policy, baby-boom doesn’t take off | Hindustan Times
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Birth rate falls in China despite two-child policy, baby-boom doesn’t take off

The falling birth rate has raised questions about the efficacy of the current two-child policy, with experts questioning whether it has been implemented years too late.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2018 16:16 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
An old woman pushes baby twins on in Haikou, Hainan Province of China, on December 16, 2004 .
An old woman pushes baby twins on in Haikou, Hainan Province of China, on December 16, 2004 .(Getty Images)

China is staring at a “gloomy demographic situation”, with the number of births falling in 2017 compared to the previous year, despite marking two years of the end of the strictly enforced one-child policy, state media reported.

The falling birth rate has raised questions about the efficacy of the current two-child policy, with experts questioning whether it has been implemented years too late.

“With 630,000 fewer babies born in 2017 than the year before, China, the world’s most populous country, is facing a gloomy demographic situation, with many experts doubting the efficacy of the country’s two-child policy,” People’s Daily, the Communist Party of China’s official mouthpiece, reported.

The report quoted data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) that a total of 17.23 million babies were born in 2017, declining from 17.86 million in 2016. In percentage terms, the birth rate dropped from 12.95% to 12.43%.

“The unsatisfying data has fallen short of government estimates, which predicted that the country’s population would rise from 1.39 to 1.45 billion by 2030,” the report said.

“The declining birth rate in 2017 indicates the end of the baby boom brought by China’s two-child policy. It’s possible that the country’s birth rate will continue to decline over the next few years,” He Yafu, a demographic researcher in China, told state media.

“The dividend of the second-child policy has largely been used up in the past two years. As China’s young population continues to decline, and the level of the country’s urbanisation keeps improving in recent years, fewer babies can be expected to be born in the future,” He said.

About 45% of the babies born in 2016 were to families who already had one child, while the age of first marriage and first childbearing have grown significantly in recent years. Experts said a primary reason why couples aren’t opting for the second child is the cost factor, especially in cities.

“The average annual cost of raising one child ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 yuan ($3123- 4685) in major cities, which is unbearable for many low-income families,” Caixin.com, a business and political news portal reported.

Coupled with a government report published in October, the new statistics indicates that the number of working young in China will drastically reduce in the coming decades. That report had said China is on its way to becoming a “hyper-aged society” and in the next three decades, more than 30% of its population will be above the age of 60.

The term “hyper-aged society” was coined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for countries with 20% of the population above the age of 65.

In real terms, more than 300 million Chinese are expected to be “senile” in the next 20 years, it added.

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