As China’s population growth rate slows down, economists are suggesting that the government adopt a three-child policy to combat the increasingly severe ageing problem. But netizens are not buying it.
Due to the excessive costs of housing, education and the burden of supporting seniors, Chinese people are more and more reluctant to have babies, seasoned economist Zeping Ren said in his report. He said the government should encourage procreation to mitigate the problems caused by the ageing society.
The newborn population in China peaked in 2016 and has been decreasing since 2017. The new first-born child population dropped from 9.81 million to 5.93 million from 2016 to 2019, not to mention the population of second and third children. Meanwhile, the problem of population ageing has never been more critical –– people aged 65 and older accounted for 12.6% in 2019 and is expected to be more than 14% in 2022, and more than 20% in 2033, making China a super-aged society.
As a developing country, however, China’s GDP per capita was only $10,000, with people aged 65 and older hitting 12.9%, in contrast with Japan, South Korea and the United State whose GDP per capita was more than $24,000 when they hit the same number. Without sufficient financial support, the increasing ageing population would disrupt the social insurance balance and create a gaping pension hole.
The report also estimates that China’s population will peak around 2030 and start to shrink drastically around 2050, causing economic growth decline and a change in consumption structure.
In order to assuage the ageing problem, Ren suggests the government encourage procreation, raise the retirement age and build a more senior-friendly society.
Since China ended its one-child policy in 2015, its fertility rate has not been rising as much as expected. Ren contends in his report that a three-child policy is the middle ground between giving parents more freedom of childbirths to boost the fertility rate and a complete liberation that might lead to a population boom.
However, the proposal has caused a backlash online, as people claim that due to the rising costs of raising a child in China, having more children is simply unrealistic. Some argue that with the three-child policy, the preference in China for a son will result in a more severe gender imbalance.
In addition, younger Chinese women who are fertile are already faced with hiring discrimination since they are more likely to give birth and be in charge of childcare. A three-child policy will only worsen the situation as hiring discrimination will expand to women who have had children.