China’s New Three-Child Policy Raises Skepticism, Questions Costs | New

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s decision to allow families to have up to three children was greeted with skepticism on Tuesday, with doubts expressed on social media as to whether it would make a big difference, and calls for details on this that the promised ‘support measures’ will include.

Beijing on Monday announced it was lifting the two-child limit in an effort to encourage more childbearing, weeks after census data confirmed rapid aging and declining fertility that are putting China on the right track. way to see its population, the largest in the world, start to shrink. Read more

The major policy change will include support measures “conducive to improving the population structure of our country,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

“I don’t quite understand. What is the significance of the support measures?” a Weibo user asked in a post that received more than 128,000 inches up, the most popular comment on Xinhua’s three-child policy post.

Social media participants cited the high cost of educating children in Chinese cities, where housing can be expensive and children attend private lessons in addition to public schools in a highly competitive education system, as a deterrent from have children.

Women in China already face a growing gender gap in terms of labor market participation and income, and have taken on a growing share of childcare tasks as state-supported childcare services have declined, according to a report last year from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“Women who work in big cities will face more discrimination and it will be more difficult for women over 30 to find a job,” said another Weibo user.

Xinhua’s reading of Monday’s Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping said that in conjunction with the new policy, China would reduce education costs, step up tax and housing support, and secure legal interests. workers, but gave no details.

James Liang, professor at the School of Economics at Peking University and founder of the online travel giant Group last month urged China to give parents of every newborn 1 million yuan to raise a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman in 2020. This rate is in line with countries like the Japan and Italy and well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

He said this week that China should spend around 5% of its GDP, up from “almost 0% currently”, on cash, tax breaks, housing subsidies, child care and other incentives in order to bring the fertility rate to about 1.6. , and expects the government to step up construction of day care centers and kindergartens soon.

Developed countries typically spend 1% to 4% of their GDP on such support, he said.

“The one I would really like to see is housing assistance, especially in the big cities,” he said. “If the local government can return (the property tax) or give discounts to couples with a third or second child,” that would help, he said.

Rise and fall

When China abandoned its one-child policy in 2016, there was a brief surge in births followed by a decline that deepened as costs continue to rise.

Yi Fuxian, a University of Wisconsin scientist and longtime critic of Chinese birth policy, said the one-child policy for decades has entrenched attitudes.

In Japan, he noted, costly policies such as free child care and education, housing subsidies for young couples, and free medical care for children have helped push up the childbirth rate. fertility from 1.26 in 2005 to 1.45 in 2015, only to drop to 1.36 in 2019.

“Having one child or no children has become the social norm in China. Social and economic models respond to the one-child policy, so the inertia effects persist,” he said. .

The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the People’s Daily of the ruling Communist Party, acknowledged the difficulty of having three children in big cities, but also said the economy was not the only factor.

“Equally important is changing some usual views of children and family values ​​in a society with a declining birth rate, and forming new expectations and acceptability, as well as views on happiness,” a- he said in an editorial.

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