China is considering introducing birth rewards and subsidies to encourage people to have a second child, after surveys showed economic constraints were making many reluctant to expand their families, the state-owned China Daily has reported. The idea was revealed by Wang Peian, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, at a social welfare conference on Saturday, the newspaper said Births rose to 17.86 million in 2016, the highest level since 2000, after the country issued new guidelines in late 2015 allowing all parents to have two children amid growing concerns over the costs of supporting an ageing population.
“That fully met the expectations but barriers still exist and must be addressed,” Wang was quoted as saying. “To have a second child is the right of each family in China but affordability has become a bottleneck that undermines the decision.” A poll conducted by the commission in 2015 found that 60% of families surveyed were reluctant to have a second baby, largely due to financial constraints.
China’s birth rate, one of the world’s lowest, is fast becoming a worry for authorities rather than the achievement it was considered at a time when the government feared over-population. China began implementing its controversial one-child policy in the 1970s in order to limit population growth, but authorities are now concerned that the country’s dwindling workforce will not be able to support an increasingly ageing population.
The policy was ended in 2015. The Communist party credited it with preventing 400m births, contributing to China’s dramatic economic takeoff since the 1980s.