China is mulling financial incentives to encourage couples to have a second child, as surveys show that many are reluctant to expand their families due to economic constraints, a media report said. Wang Pei’an, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, revealed the potential move at a social welfare conference, the China Daily said in the report on Tuesday.
Top decision-makers last year relaxed the more than four-decade-old family planning policy to allow, if not encourage, all Chinese couples to have a second child. Nationwide, the change led to 17.8 million births in 2016, an increase of more than 1.3 million compared with the previous year and the biggest annual increase in 20 years.
“That fully met the expectations, but barriers still exist and must be addressed,” Wang told the conference. “To have a second child is the right of each family in China, but affordability has become a bottleneck that undermines the decision.A survey by the commission in 2015 found that 60 per cent of families polled expressed reluctance to have a second baby largely due to economic constraints.
To address that, Wang said, the government is considering introducing supporting measures including “birth rewards and subsidies” to encourage people to have another child, the daily said. It is the first time that the top population authority has suggested such a move to boost the birthrate, according to Yuan Xin, a professor at Nankai University in Tianjin.
In some low-fertility countries like Japan, baby incentives such as cash subsidies, prolonged maternity leave, tax breaks, and child and healthcare benefits have been introduced by the government to boost the population.
China, however, is a different case, according to Yuan, who explained that the nation still faces challenges from a huge population base and limited natural and public resources to sustain population development.
A mother of a 3-year-old girl in Beijing told China Daily: “I don’t expect cash from the government for a second child. Sound social public policies to help working parents raise the children are needed more.” The woman referred to prolonged maternity leave, equal working opportunities for mothers, easy access to quality education resources for children and a well-functioning social welfare system.