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China's three-child policy to improve demographic structure

Updated: Jun 01,2021 07:32 PM    Xinhua

BEIJING — China's new birth policy, raising the limit to three children per couple, is expected to maximize the population's role in driving economic and social growth and address the risks of a downward trend in fertility, according to the country's health authority.

This major policy shift was announced at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held on June 1.

China is at a critical juncture of strategic opportunity as the world's most populous country is transforming itself into a powerhouse with a quality workforce, the National Health Commission (NHC) said.

Population aging is a dominant demographic phenomenon around the globe and China is no exception. Statistics from the NHC showed that the proportion of China's population aged 60 years and older is expected to triple from over 10 percent in the late 1990s to over 30 percent around 2035.

The three-child policy is conducive to improving the age structure of the population, increasing the supply of a new labor force, easing intergenerational contradictions, and invigorating Chinese society, the commission said.

According to the meeting on June 1, the birth policy change will come with supportive measures, including improving prenatal and postnatal care services, developing a universal childcare service system, reducing family spending on education, strengthening tax and housing support, and safeguarding the lawful rights and interests of working women.

The central authority has put the population issue high on the agenda. Notable results have been achieved thanks to major birth policy adjustments adopted since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the NHC noted.

China in 2013 allowed couples to have a second child if either parent was an only child, and in 2016 couples were allowed to have two children, phasing out the one-child policy.

According to the latest census data published in May, the proportion of children under the age of 14 in the total population of China rose to 17.95 percent in 2020 from 16.6 percent in 2010.

Following the policy shifts in recent years, second-child births accounted for about 50 percent of all newborns in recent years, compared to around 30 percent in 2013.

Responding to the query on the declining trend of births even after a second child was greenlighted, the NHC said that fertility in developed countries is generally at a low level, adding that along with China's process of urbanization, industrialization and modernization, people are inclined to have fewer children and give them better parenting and education.

The NHC attributed the falling births in China in recent years to shrinking child-bearing age women, the postponement of marriage and reproduction, dampened fertility intention and the impact of COVID-19, among others.

A nationwide survey in 2019 showed that obstacles that left Chinese parents conflicted over whether to have a second child included increasing economic burden (75 percent), shortage of infant care service (51 percent) and impacts on career (34 percent).

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