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Chinese couples aren’t convinced by the new 3-child policy

Yes, Chinese couples can now have three children, but many don’t want to. Here’s why

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A woman plays with a child in a compound near a commercial office building in Beijing.

A woman plays with a child in a compound near a commercial office building in Beijing on May 10, 2021. China’s ruling Communist Party will ease birth limits to allow all couples to have three children instead of two to cope with the rapid rise in the average age of its population, a state news agency said Monday.

Andy Wong, Associated Press

China loosened birth limits to allow families to have up to three children, reported Bloomberg News. The new policy, announced Monday, aims to counter China’s falling birthrates and rapidly aging population that will lead to a drop in economic productivity, said CNBC.

  • In 2020, only 12 million new babies were born in China, the lowest since 1961, said Bloomberg News.

The new policy is unlikely to lead to a sustained increase in birthrates due to other unaddressed challenges that deter couples from having children, says CNBC.

Why did China change its policies to allow three children?

The ruling Chinese Communist Party, currently led by President Xi Jinping, has limited births since 1980, reports The Associated Press. What began as a one-child policy was loosened to a two-child policy in 2016. However, birth rates continued to fall despite the change, said the AP.

  • The share of China’s working-age population, those between the age of 15 and 59, has dropped to 63.3% from 70.1% a decade ago, according to the AP.

China’s rapidly aging population will begin to strain the economy and society, according to the AP. By allowing more children, China hopes to reverse current trends and sustain its economic growth, reported CNBC.

Do Chinese families want more children?

In short: not really. Chinese couples have a growing reluctance about having children at all, let alone three, stated CNBC. The hesitancy comes from reasons unrelated to government birth limits.

  • For the last seven years, marriage rates have also fallen in mainland China with registrations dropping by 12% last year, reports CNBC.

Younger, better-educated Chinese woman — and couples — prefer smaller families, reported The New York Times.

Why do Chinese couples not want children?

According to reports from The New York Times and CNBC, Chinese couples have numerous reasons for not wanting children that are unrelated to birth limits:

  • High education costs and extracurricular costs discourage couples, reported The New York Times.
  • Houses in good school districts are unaffordable or high-priced, said CNBC.
  • Child care remains widely unavailable, leaving young parents to rely on their parents for child support, per The New York Times.
  • Professional environments remain incredibly competitive and involve grueling work hours, said the AP.
  • Pregnancy discrimination is widespread. Women say they have been demoted or fired when they announce their pregnancy or women have been forced to sign contracts that they will not get pregnant for a specific period of time, reported The New York Times.

In Monday’s announcement, the government promised to protect women’s employment, reduce education costs, and improve maternity leave but gave few details, said CNBC.