Contrary to what population experts had expected, birth rates declined in China during the COVID-19 lockdown even though the communist nation has ended the one-child policy and given incentives to couples to have two children.
When COVID-19 first broke out in China, many speculated and some government officials and demographers hoped that the widespread lockdowns, which confined millions of Chinese people to their homes, would yield a boom of quarantine babies, SupChina reported.
Citing preliminary data, SupChina reported that the birth rates declined between 9 per cent and 32.6 per cent in the second half of 2020 compared with 2019 in some Chinese cities, including Guangzhou in Guangdong Province, Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, and Hefei in Anhui Province.
SupChina reported that the actual situation is likely to be less bleak than what these figures portray because they don't include children born in violation of China's family planning policies, which have been relaxed but not abolished in recent years.
However, some researchers stressed that the data to fully gauge the number of lowered birth rates won't be available for a few months, many population experts are convinced that the pandemic had led to a sizable reduction in children born in 2020.
"Judging from the numbers that have been released so far, it's quite obvious that China's fertility rate has continued to drop. The downward trend is still in force," SupChina quoted Lu Jiehua, a sociology professor at Peking University. He also warned that in the long term, declining birth rates could leave China without enough workers, making the country unable to fund welfare programs for senior citizens.
The country's birth rates have been steadily falling for years now, mostly because young people can't afford to have kids, and more financially independent women have decided to embrace a single, childless lifestyle.
The combination of low fertility rates and an aging population has driven the government to roll out a wide range of policies to encourage births, including relaxing its decades-long one-child policy and offering extended benefits to couples having a second child, reported SupChina.
In an article published in December last year, Civil Affairs Minister Li Jiheng urged the government to introduce more effective measures to boost the country's "dangerously low" birth rate.
Moreover, in an online poll (in Chinese) involving nearly 57,000 Weibo users, Sina Finance found that more than 75 per cent of the respondents cited "high living costs" as the primary reason for their decisions to not have babies, reported SupChina.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)