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China asked to spend much more to halt its rapidly declining fertility rate

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb23’22) – In more bad news for China’s declining population growth, which remains a seriously worrying development to Beijing, the average cost of raising a child until the age of 18 was 485,000 yuan ($76,556) in 2019, which was 6.9 times the country’s GDP per capita, much higher than many countries including the US, France, Germany and Japan, reported China’s official globaltimes.cn Feb 22, citing a Chinese think tank report.

The report was stated to estimate that China needed to spend 5 percent of its GDP annually to lower the costs of raising children to the level of developed countries.

The report, published Feb 22 by the YuWa Population Research think tank, was stated to compare the figures with 13 other countries in Europe, Asia and America. And it showed China ranked the second among all these countries in expenditure of raising a child to the age of 18. South Korea ranked first with 7.79 times of its GDP per capita being spent on raising a child until age 18. South Korea’s fertility rate is now the lowest in the world, which was 0.84 in 2020.

In contrast, the relevant figure in the US was 4.11 times its GDP per capita in 2015, 5.25 times its GDP per capita in the UK 2021 and 3.64 times its GDP per capita in Germany in 2018.

Based on household income and consumption expenditure released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the report has found that the average cost for Chinese urban families to raise a child until the age of 18 was 630,000 yuan, while it was 300,000 yuan for rural families.

Families in Tibet Autonomous Region were stated to spend an average of 293,000 yuan to raise a child until the age of 18, compared to the highest of 1.03 million yuan in Shanghai, followed by 969,000 yuan in Beijing.

The high cost of raising children is one of the main factors preventing couples of childbearing ages to consider having a child, the report was stated to note.

Yang Jinrui, an official with the National Health Commission, was stated to have said at a press conference on Jan 20 that young people’s desire to have children had continued to decline, with women of childbearing age planning to have 1.76 children on average in 2017, 1.73 in 2019 and 1.64 in 2021.

Marriage registrations had continued to decline since 2013, with a total of 8.14 million marriages registered in 2020 – a 1.13 million decline over 2019.

The report was also cited as saying that with the number of newborns standing at 10.62 million in 2021, China’s total fertility rate was 1.15, among the world’s lowest.

Japan, which has been dubbed a super-aged society, had experienced record low fertility rates some 30 years ago, but it managed to keep the rate at around 1.3 in 2021, when in China it was around 1.15, Liang Jianzhang, economics professor at Peking University, has said. 

By 2040, China will face a much worse situation than Japan, with slow economic growth, a soaring aging population and weaker innovation, if China fails to improve its fertility rate, he has said.

The think tank report has called for a host of measures to reduce the cost of raising children in China in order to encourage births, saying the listed Western countries spend around 2 to 4 times their GDP per capita figures on raising children, much lower than in China.

These measures include giving a monthly cash subsidy of 1,000 yuan for each child for couples with two children and 2,000 yuan for each child for couples with three and more children until the age of 20, and a 50 percent reduction or exemption from income tax and social security payments for families with two or more children.

The report has also called for subsidizing mortgage interest rates for couples who have two or more children or for offering discounts in house purchases to them and for building more baby care centers for children from birth to 3 years old.

Liang has said that the three major measures – cash rewards, housing subsidies and baby care centers – were expected to cost 5 percent of China’s GDP annually and may improve China’s fertility rate to the level of developed countries.

The report said the think tank was established by a group of demographers and economists, including Liang Jianzhang.

Since China announced a further easing of its family planning policy to allow each couple to have up to three children last May, several provinces and cities had rolled out incentives, the report said, ranging from up to 3,300 yuan ($510) each month for babies born since Sep 1, 2021 for couples in a village in Guangdong Province, to an announcement last July of cash handouts of 500 yuan per baby each month for local families in Panzhihua in Sichuan Province.

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