China announced Monday (31) that it would allow each couple to have up to three children, ending the limit of two still in place. The decision was taken a few weeks after the publication of the results of the last census, which showed a significant drop in the birth rate in the most populous country in the world.
“In response to the aging of the population (…) couples will be allowed to have three children,” state agency Xinhua reported, reporting the findings of a meeting of the Communist Party’s political cabinet led by the leader. Xi Jinping.
Xi said the change would be accompanied by “supportive measures taken to improve the country’s population structure, realizing the strategy of actively dealing with the aging population.” Among the measures, he cited reducing the costs of education, increasing housing finance, securing the legal interests of working women and cracking down on “stratospheric” dowries. He also said the country would educate young people “in marriage and love”.
Until last year, those with a third child had to pay a fine of 130,000 yuan (106,500 BRL), according to a warning from the Weihai City government.
On May 11, the 2020 census results revealed faster-than-expected aging of China’s population and the slowest population growth in decades. Mainland China had 1.411 billion inhabitants in 2020, 72 million more than in 2010. The average annual growth between 2011 and 2020 was however 0.53%, the lowest at least since the 1950s (2001). -2010), this rate was 0.57. %.
Data showed a fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman in 2020, in line with aging societies like Japan and Italy. Last year, marked by the Covid pandemic, the number of births in the country fell to 12 million, from 14.65 million in 2019.
The birth rate in 2019 (10.48 per 1,000) was already at its lowest level since the founding of Communist China in 1949. Thus, in 2016, after more than three decades of “one-child policy” , China relaxed the rules and allowed the second child.
But the new policy was not enough to revive the birth rate, which fell for several reasons, including the reduction in the number of marriages, the rise in the cost of housing and education, and also the decision of women to postpone the births. weddings. a professional career.
A study published this year by scientists at Hangzhou University found that the two-child policy encouraged wealthy couples and was “less responsive to the financial burden of raising a child,” resulting in higher education fees and costs. babysitting and discouraging travel for new parents.
“People are holding back not because of the two-child limit, but because of the incredibly high costs of raising a child in China today. Accommodation, extracurricular activities, food, travel and everything, ”Yifei Li, a sociologist at Shanghai University, told Reuters. “In my opinion, raising the line shouldn’t change anyone’s plans.”
Xinhua conducted a poll on the Weibo social network, asking whether the population was ready for the three-child policy. About 29,000 of the 31,000 who responded said they “would never think about it”. The others chose the options “I’m ready and I really want it”, “It’s in my plans” or “I doubt and there is a lot to consider”. The search was then deleted. “I’m ready to have three children if you give me 5 million yuan [o equivalente a R$ 4 milhões]”, posted an Internet user.
At the other end of the pyramid, the census showed that China had more than 264 million people over the age of 60 in 2020. The 60 and over age group now constitutes 18.7% of the population. total, an increase of 5.44 percentage points compared to the 2010 survey.
In contrast, the working-age population (15 to 59) represents 63.35% of the total, a decrease of 6.79 points compared to the previous decade. Demographers have warned that the country could record the same phenomenon as Japan and South Korea, with an excess of old people compared to the young and active population in the labor market, a concern that has pushed the Chinese parliament in March to approve a plan to increase the retirement age over the next five years.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s still a bit timid,” said Shuang Ding, chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong. “A completely free birth policy should have been implemented at least five years ago, but it’s too late now, better late than never.
One-child policy prevented the birth of 400 million
In the early 1950s, China had a population of around 540 million, and in less than 30 years, the population had doubled to 1 billion in the early 1980s.
Then, with a strict birth control policy that allowed only one child per couple in many cases, population growth was held back. It is estimated that the measure has prevented the birth of around 400 million people since its implementation in 1979.
Couples who did not comply with the restrictions faced penalties such as payment of fines and loss of their jobs, and there were reports of tougher measures such as sterilizations and forced abortions.
In 2015, the regime suspended the one-child policy and began encouraging every family to have two children. The decision did not increase the birth rate, however, leading to calls to remove the limit of two children per family. The objective set in 2016 was to exceed 1.42 billion inhabitants by 2020.
According to the latest census data, China has succeeded in reducing the gender imbalance induced by the traditional preference for boys and which sometimes leads to the elimination of female fetuses. Thus, the country recorded the birth of 111.3 boys for every 100 girls, a proportion down 6.8 percentage points compared to 2010.