China announced new measures on Tuesday to encourage families to have more children, as its birth rate is at an all-time low and its population is expected to decline by 2025. The most populous country on the planet is facing a demographic crisis, with an aging workforce, a slowing economy and the lowest population growth in decades.
Measures of “active support” for fertility
And even though the authorities ended their strict one-child policy in 2016, then allowed up to three children per couple last year, births have continued to decline over the past five years. On Tuesday, the health ministry called on central and local governments to spend more on reproductive health and improve childcare services. These services are largely insufficient in the country.
Local authorities must “put in place active fertility support measures”, through subsidies, tax deductions and better health insurance, as well as education, housing and employment aid for families, advocates the ministry. The provinces must also ensure that they have a sufficient number of child care centers by the end of the year for children aged two to three.
7.52 births per 1,000 inhabitants
China’s wealthiest cities have already introduced housing loans, tax breaks, educational aids and even subsidies to encourage women to have more children. The directives published on Tuesday seem to want to extend this policy to the whole territory.
China’s birth rate fell last year to 7.52 births per 1,000 people, the lowest since records began in 1949, when the Communist Party of China was founded, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The higher cost of living and a cultural shift in favor of smaller families are among the reasons cited for this decline in births.
In early August, health authorities warned that China’s population would decline by 2025.