Experts have urged the Chinese government to fully roll out a two-child policy in order to maintain a healthy population structure and provide young labour for sustainable economic growth. They warned that China could experience population decay as early as 2021 or by 2030 at the latest, meaning that its death rate will be higher than its birth rate.
Huang Wenzheng, a demographer at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. city of Baltimore, told Yicai News that the average fertility rate of a woman in China is 1.4, far lower than 2.1, which is the rate needed to maintain the population. He calculated that if the rate of 1.4 continues, the birth rate of a generation (around 25 to 30 years) will shrink by 35 per cent.
A two-child policy was passed in the National People’s Congress in December 2015 and became effective on January 1. It is expected to gradually replace the one-child policy, which was introduced between 1978 and 1980 to control an explosion in population growth and counter the impact of the ageing population.
In 2014, the Chinese government enacted a two-child policy for parents who are single children themselves. Deputy Director of the Fujian Census Bureau Yao Meixiong said that the policy failed to lead to a sharp birth rate increase and that it actually decreased by 320,000 from the previous year.
“The costs of raising children are increasing by day. A lot of families are not financially capable of having children. Women have joined the labour force extensively, and have no time or inclination to have children,” Yao told Yicai news.
He added that the mentality of having few children has permeated Chinese society and that increased costs deter parents. As more women join the labour force, they become less willing to devote their lives towards children, he said.
Yao warned that if the Chinese government fails to encourage people to have more children, the birth rate would continue to decline and the labour force shrink.
“In terms of maintaining population structure, safety and sustainability, the timing of implementing the two-child policy is not right, but severely late,” he said.