China passed the three-child policy in August last year in a major policy shift to address the deepening demographic crisis attributed to the draconian decades-old one-child policy which policymakers blame for the demographic crisis in the country.
China permitted all couples to have two children in 2016, scrapping the one-child policy and revised it to permit three children after the once-in-a-decade census showed that China’s population grew at the slowest pace to 1.412 billion.
The new census figures revealed that the demographic crisis China faced was expected to deepen as the population above 60 years grew to 264 million, up by 18.7 per cent in 2020.
After the endorsement of the three-child policy, more than 20 provincial-level regions of China have completed modifications and rolled out supportive measures like increased leave for couples, parental leave, extended maternity leave, marriage leave and paternity leave.
According to the statistical yearbook, birth rates in 10 of China’s provincial-level regions fell below one per cent in 2020 with Henan, one of the most populous provinces, falling below one million births for the first time since 1978.
China’s birth rate in 2020 was recorded as 8.52 per 1,000 people, the lowest in 43 years, according to the China Statistical Yearbook 2021, state-run Global Times reported.
The natural growth rate of the population accounted for 1.45 per 1,000 people, also a new low since 1978.
Among the 14 provincial-level regions that have published their 2020 birth rates, seven – including China’s southwest Guizhou province and China’s south Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region – saw birth rates above the national average.
However, the birth rate in some developed regions such as China’s east Jiangsu province was below the national level, reaching 6.66 per 1,000 people, while Beijing and Tianjin saw rates of 6.98 and 5.99 per 1,000 people, respectively.
Henan, whose population is 99.4 million, saw 1.1 million to 1.2 million newborns annually from 2002 to 2010.
However, its birth rate for the first time fell to 9.24 per 1,000 people in 2020, and the number of new babies was 920,000, a new low since 1978, the report said.
COVID-19 was one of the factors affecting birth rates, Song Jian from the Centre for Population and Development Studies of Renmin University of China, told the daily.
“China faces challenges including an ageing population and changes in people’s choices. Low birth rates will continue due to many factors,” Song said.
Song noted that more meticulous and systematic management policies are needed to encourage couples to have more children.
Some netizens claimed that many people who were born after 1990 don’t want to get married and give birth due to the pressure of housing, noting that the country needs to figure out more measures to encourage young couples to have more children.