Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A third child? No thanks, say young Chinese

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BEIJING: China wants its wives to have more children, but for many young people, big promises of support from the government mean little due to high living costs and changes in mindsets about families.
On Monday, the world’s most populous nation further relaxed its strict family planning controls, allowing couples to have three children after just 12 million Chinese were born last year, a record low.
But high costs, limited space and social norms shaped by decades of limits on family size will hamper efforts to boost China’s population of 1.4 billion, experts warn.
“Many of the women around me dislike the idea of ​​having children,” Yan Jiaqi, a 22-year-old master’s student in Beijing, told AFP.
“So don’t even talk about having three,” he said.
In 2016, China relaxed its “one-child policy,” one of the strictest family planning regulations in the world, allowing couples to have two children as concerns mount about an aging workforce and stagnation. economic.
The latest easing is part of an increasingly desperate effort to spark a population boom before China’s remarkable growth story is bogged down by the health and pension bills of hundreds of millions of older people.
For the country’s communist leadership to succeed, it will have to persuade people like Yang Shengyi, a 29-year-old father of two, to have one more child.
While visiting a Beijing toy store with his family, Yang said that two young children were already more than enough in the competitive grip of the Chinese capital.
“We don’t have that much money and there isn’t enough space at home, so I don’t think there is any reason to have a third child,” she told AFP.
“When our second child was born, suddenly there was only half of everything, and where originally we could give each child 100 percent, now we can only give 50 percent.”
For others, the idea of ​​having children or even getting married is off the table, as urban life takes its toll: long hours of work, expensive housing, and a punishing ladder to a decent education.
Young people today “may not think about bearing the family name and feel that their own quality of life is more important,” Yan Jiaqi said.
This increasingly widespread attitude has alarmed China’s leaders, prompting the policy shift on Monday.
But vague promises to support couples, and women in particular, with work-life balance if they have more children did not make friends quickly on Chinese social media.
Instead, the new policy sparked ridicule from young Chinese who were already struggling with intense competition in the workplace and pressure to support elderly parents without siblings to share the costs, thanks to the “one child” edict. .
Social media users circulated memes clarifying the idea of ​​having children, including a picture of a discounted three-story bunk bed, and celebrating the relative financial freedom of not having children.
Others made obscene jokes about boosting population growth.
Experts say that changing socioeconomic conditions, including the intense educational investments families make in their children and women who want to have a more voice in their careers and family lives, mean that the government will have to do more than simply loosen the rules.
“Having only one child or no child has become the social norm in China,” Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told AFP.
China’s fertility rate is 1.3, below the level needed to maintain a stable population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Other East Asian countries have also struggled to increase birth rates, with families shrinking in South Korea, Japan and Singapore despite government incentives.
Yi said the relaxed birth policy was “too late and too little,” and that China’s best hope was to model its policies after Japan, “for example, by providing free child care, free education, housing subsidies for young couples. “.
“Young people are under a lot of pressure,” a woman visiting the Bund in Shanghai with her only child, who did not give her name, told AFP.
“They don’t have time to babysit at home because of work, and if they babysit full time, that means they don’t have a job.”
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