How China is rolling out the red carpet for couples who have more than one child
But will it work?
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/how-china-is-rolling-out-the-red-carpet-for-couples-who-have-more-than-one/17882#sthash.iKjdM1Zm.dpuf
A rather remarkable turnaround has occurred in China. For a country famous for having the most comprehensive sets of policies designed to limit births, it is now introducing new policies to support parents who have a second child.
In November 2015, China announced it would abandon its one-child policy and switch to a national two-child policy. The change came into force on January 1, 2016, with the immediate rationale being to tackle China’s rapidly ageing (and projected declining) population.
Some predicted a huge baby boom. Others – including me – suggested that the reforms were “too little, too late”, and that “simply allowing people to have more children does not mean they will.”
In early March, incentives for parents to have more children were explicitly mentioned in a speech by Premier Li Keqiang. Li noted:
We will improve the supporting policies to complement the decision to allow all couples to have two kids … We will encourage the development of kindergartens open to all children.
The theme was seen across the March meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC). Xu Ma, an NPC deputy and director of the National Research Institute of Family Planning, stated that:
A lack of childcare and fewer job opportunities are major obstacles to Chinese women having a second baby … To help working mothers, community nurseries should be opened to care for children younger than three-years-old.
Meanwhile, NPC deputy Zhu Lieyu suggested that:
The government should offer mothers of two children a living allowance for three years, and the sum should be 70-80% of the average per capita income in their specific part of the country.
More concretely, the Chinese minister of finance, Lou Jiwei, was quoted in state media to have submitted a set of proposals to reform individual income tax to support couples to have a second child.
While mortgage relief for couples who have two children appears not to have made it into the latest round of tax reforms, there is evidence that education costs may be added to the list of costs deductible for tax relief.
Local incentives coming thick and fast
At a local level, other policies to support childbearing are already being introduced. In late March 2016, it was announced that mothers in Beijing would be entitled to an extra month’s maternity leave, while new fathers would be entitled to 15 days paternity leave.
For some time now, studies have observed family planning officials in some large cities actively encouraging couples to take advantage of their rights to have a second child. In this way, local governments could become ever more proactive in designing policies to support couples to have a second child.
Not worked elsewhere in Asia
Governments across Pacific Asia have been introducing increasingly far-reaching policies in recent years to support and encourage childbearing in an attempt to stem extremely rapid ageing resulting from very low fertility rates.
Perhaps the most expansive and famous is in Singapore. As well as government sponsored dating events and wide-ranging maternity benefits, parents are effectively handed “baby bonuses” and tax rebates of tens of thousands of pounds per child.
Elsewhere, policies to support childbearing both financially and in terms of childcare and parental leave have been introduced in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
Yet, in each of these settings fertility has stayed resolutely low; not least in Singapore which has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.
This is because the financial subsidies simply do not come close to offsetting the high costs of childbearing in these countries. Costs are further exaggerated by expectations of huge investment in education and other activities, sometimes called “education fever”. These policies are also not able to adequately address some of the more fundamental reasons for limiting family sizes, such as fragile employment and the “triple burden” placed on women to work and take primary responsibility for both children and elderly parents.
A helping hand
There is now a broad agreement that it is not just the family planning policies which pushed – and kept – fertility down in China. As such, just changing the policy is likely to have only a limited impact.
Assuming, though, that many of the other reasons for low fertility are common to both China and elsewhere in Asia, and given the limited success elsewhere in turning birth rates around, we might question how effective policies to support childbearing will be at increasing the Chinese fertility rate.
But I think that this misses the point. If the new policies set out to encourage childbearing in order to achieve certain key population “goals”, then they may well not succeed. But the language of the new policy announcement does not appear to suggest this. In a break from the “old” way of talking about family planning, this “new” language is much more about “supporting” than “encouraging”. This is not just semantics. If the new policies are designed to support citizens to be able to meet their aspirations in terms of family, work and life, then their success should be judged on this rather than the birth rate in years to come.
Switching from the world’s most restrictive family planning regime to offering incentives for childbirth is a remarkable turnaround. But it may well be that the truly revolutionary aspect of this policy change is the switch from “controlling and shaping” citizen’s actions to meet the needs of the nation, towards “supporting and enabling” them to meet their own personal aspirations.
Common Core educational standards have not surfaced in the US election as one of the key issues, as pundits once predicted. Opinions are split, but not necessarily on party lines. Republican candidate John Kasich supports them, but they are rubbished by his opponents Ted Cruz (“abolish the Department of Education” and Donald Trump (“a total disaster”).
Bernie Sanders has said nothing specific on the issue, but supports them. Hillary Clinton recognises that there have been problems with the roll-out of the Common Core but says “I have always supported national standards”.
Below, the President of the National Association of Scholars and author of the a book on the controversial program gives his opinion in an interview with Carolyn Moynihan.
ONE LAST THING: We've just opened a survey about your favourite books. We'd like to know what your favourites about heroes and heroines of conscience are. You may enter as many times as you like. It's a kind of crowd-sourcing of the wisdom of MercatorNet readers. Click here to do the survey: http://goo.gl/3um2fe
|Rotten to the core? America’s new curriculum project|
Peter Wood | FEATURES | 13 April 2016
A seasoned educationist explains why the Common Core should be abandoned.
|How China is rolling out the red carpet for couples who have more than one child|
Stuart Gietel-Basten | DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY | 13 April 2016
But will it work?
Paolo Braga | POPCORN | 13 April 2016
'You can be decent and gifted at the same time' sums up the film's message.
|Growing Up: Little Women|
Susan Reibel Moore | READING MATTERS | 13 April 2016
The first in a series of articles about coming of age books.
|Two life factors that prevent debt|
Nicole M. King | FAMILY EDGE | 13 April 2016
Hint: the family has everything to do with it.
Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George Street, North Strathfied NSW 2137, Australia
Designed by elleston
New Media Foundation | Suite 12A, Level 2, 5 George St | North Strathfield NSW 2137 | AUSTRALIA | +61 2 8005 8605