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Greater efforts urged to encourage births as population growth slows

Updated:2021-11-23 11:26:27   China Daily

Demographers have called for more efficient implementation of supportive measures to encourage births to address the country's dwindling population growth, as indicated in the recently released China Statistical Yearbook 2021.

The birthrate last year was 8.52 births per thousand people, the lowest level since 1978, according to the yearbook, which was compiled by the National Bureau of Statistics and published over the weekend.

The rate of natural increase-the difference between the birthrate and the death rate-dropped to 1.45 per thousand, also the lowest rate in 43 years, the yearbook said.

According to an article published in May in the journal Population Research, which is affiliated with the China Population and Development Research Center, the birthrate from January to September last year declined by 20 to 30 percent from the same period in 2015. However, the birthrate in November and December last year dropped by 45 percent compared with the same period in 2015, mainly due to the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Zhai Zhenwu, director of the Population Development Studies Center at Renmin University of China, said the decline in China's birthrate is mainly due to the sharp decrease in the number of women of childbearing age and people's unwillingness to have more children.

The COVID-19 epidemic is expected to have a delayed and bigger impact on the country's birthrate this year, which is expected to drop further, he said.

Dong Yuzheng, director of the Guangdong Academy of Population Development, said the combination of economic pressures and the impact of the pandemic have discouraged people from wanting to have children.

To address the challenges of a graying population and declining fertility rates, China has adjusted its family planning policy to allow couples to have up to three children. Central authorities have also issued a slew of supportive measures, from tax breaks and more flexible work leave to easier access to nurseries, schools and public housing, in order to ease the burden on parents raising children.

Zhai said that while negative population growth is an inevitable outcome of modernization and urbanization, effective and efficient implementation of the policies can delay the process and give the country more time to minimize the impact on society and the economy.

More efforts are needed to offer affordable nurseries to couples, reduce education costs and introduce supportive policies to minimize the impact of giving birth on women's career development, he added.

The yearbook also said there were 8.14 million registered marriages last year, down by 1.13 million from 2019. The number has declined for seven consecutive years.

There were 5.88 million registered marriages during the first three quarters this year, a fall of 17.5 percent compared with the same period last year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

According to a survey of 2,900 single people between the ages of 18 and 26 conducted by a research center at the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, 25 percent of respondents said they were uncertain whether they would get married, and 8.9 percent said they would not get married.

Forty-four percent of female respondents said they would not get married or had not made a decision about it. However, only 24 percent of male respondents gave the same response. Researchers put the large disparity down to the negative impact raising a child has on women's career opportunities and development.

Last year, 4.34 million couples divorced, a decrease of 361,600 compared with 2019. The divorce rate, which has been rising for years, fell from 3.36 percent in 2019 to 3.09 percent in 2020, mainly due to the introduction of a 30-day cooling-off period for couples filing for divorce.

The cooling-off period was included in the Civil Code, which came into effect on Jan 1. During the period, either party can withdraw the divorce application.

Keywords:   births population growth