China wants couples to have more children. The Chinese are less enthusiastic.

China wants couples to have more children.  The Chinese are less enthusiastic.

Chinese shopping malls are increasingly offering activity centers similar to the one in Beijing, where children bake cakes on Children’s Day on June 1, 2020.

Zhao Jun | China Press Service | Getty Images

BEIJING – For many Chinese, government restrictions have long ceased to be their main reason for not having more children.

This poses a greater challenge for Chinese authorities when they try to limit the negative effects on the economy of a decades-old policy limiting single-child households.

The central government announced on Monday that each couple could now have three children, generating a buzz of discussions online – mostly about why it’s not practical to have children, let alone three, in modern China.

More than 30,000 respondents to a simple online poll by the state-run Xinhua News Agency overwhelmingly said they did not plan to have more children because of the new policy. The poll was soon deleted.

The high costs of education and insufficient support for maternity leave and retirement have contributed to a growing reluctance to have children. Relaxing restrictions to two children per couple in recent years has done little to stem the decline in births and prevent a population of 1.4 billion people from rapidly aging.

The new policy is “wholly inadequate to reverse population decline,” Rory Green, senior Chinese economist at TS Lombard, told CNBC on Tuesday.Street signs in Asia“He said structural changes, such as improving access to child care,” are much more important than simply removing the numerical limit on the number of children you can have. “

“One of the jokes online, after this (new policy) was released, was, ‘Why would I want to have another child when I have to take care of four elderly parents, already two children and potentially nine grandchildren. children thereafter, ”he said.

Marriage records are dropping

On Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, Tuesday morning’s four most popular hashtags were about the new three-child policy. Each hashtag has had a few hundred million views.

A popular article under the hashtag “What changes will the three-child policy bring”, it was discussed how it would likely become more difficult for women pursue a professional career.

“If you are not married, HR will consider whether you should take marriage leave,” the post said in Chinese, according to a CNBC translation. “If you are married with no children, HR will consider whether you will need to take maternity leave.”

“If you are married and have one child, HR will consider whether you will have a second child,” the post added. “If you are married and have two children, HR will ask if you will have a third child. If you are married and have three children, HR will ask if you can still handle working with three children.”

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Another major concern for Chinese couples is whether they can afford a house in a good school district, extracurricular classes, and the many other costs involved in raising a child who they believe can then be successful in getting a good one. employment in a highly competitive environment.

The rat race among what are often elite and narrow social groups in China has gained so much attention recently that it has popularized its own term – “nei juan” – which New Yorker magazine translated last month as “involution.”

Before even looking at the issue of children, fewer people are forming families. Marriage registrations in mainland China fell 12% last year, marking a seventh year of decline, according to data from Wind Information.

Too little, too late?

In the case of China, the country is much poorer than Japan, so its productivity growth has more leeway, preventing the economy from falling into Japan’s situation in the near future, Shaun said on Tuesday. Roache, S&P Global Ratings Chief Economist for Asia-Pacific. CNBC “Squawk Box Asia. “

But he noted that China is aging faster than Japan and Western Europe, creating a problem that must be resolved quickly.

“If people feel that society as a whole is aging very, very quickly, they worry about who is going to pay their pensions. They save a lot more and consume less, ”said Roache. “You get an imbalanced economy which creates problems in the real estate market, which leaves the economy too dependent on exports.”

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