Chinese officials are reportedly considering ending all of the country’s restrictions on childbirth and will start introducing policies to encourage having children in response to slowing economic growth and an aging population, The Wall Street Journal reports.
At least one policy maker told the newspaper that officials in Beijing are currently discussing whether to end the restrictions on births once the current five-year economic plan ends in 2025. This person said that China will most likely start by getting rid of the restrictions on the number of births in provinces where the birthrate is the lowest in the country.
A recent census showed that China had 12 million births last year, a decline of 18% from the 14.65 million born the year before. China’s population, which is about 1.41 billion in total, only grew by 72 million over the last ten years.
The census also showed that China is approaching a historic drop in its population, prompting the country’s ruling Chinese Communist Party to announce that couples will be allowed to have up to three children, instead of the previous two-child limit that replaced the one-child policy about five years ago.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Yi Fuxian, researcher based in the United States who has been a vocal critic of China’s policies towards population growth. “It signals how concerned [Chinese President] Xi Jinping is.”
The Journal notes that Xi told senior officials in the CCP that the country’s aging population has become a threat to national security. Some provinces, like those in the country’s northeast, have recently experienced economic depression that could have a negative impact on the area’s population growth, and has caused some of those regions to introduce their own policies to encourage childbirth.
“Ending birth restrictions is not enough to reverse the trend of negative population growth in our province,” Chinese government researchers from Jilin province wrote in a report published by the region’s development and research center last February. “It is also necessary to introduce policies to encourage childbirth based on real-world conditions.”
One of the Journal’s sources said that despite concerns about the birth rate and aging population, officials in Beijing remain reluctant to rescind all of the country’s birth control measures, saying that senior party leaders are worried that it could lead to more poor families in rural areas having many more children, which could cause those regions to fall back into extreme poverty.
A policy adviser to the Chinese government reportedly expressed disappointment at the country’s decision to only ease the limit on childbirth to three children, saying, “What’s the point of waiting another few years to abolish all controls?”
Mu Guangzong of the Peking University’s Institute of Population Research in Beijing added: “The government needs to recognize reproductive rights as the basic right of its people. With birth control, no matter how many children people can have, Chinese still have no right to make decisions on reproduction.”